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The mosaic map of Madaba is the oldest known geographic floor mosaic in art history. It is of major use for the localisation and verification of biblical sites. Study of the map played a major role in answering the question of the topographical location of Askalon (Asqalan on the map). In 1967, excavations in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem revealed the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus in the very locations suggested by the Madaba Map.
The largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction is Jerusalem, at the centre of the map. The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the New Church of the Theotokos, the Tower of David and the Cardo Maximus. The recognisable depiction of the urban topography makes the mosaic a key source on Byzantine Jerusalem. Also unique are the detailed depictions of cities such as Neapolis, Askalon, Gaza, Pelusium and Charachmoba, all of them nearly detailed enough to be described as street maps.
In February 2010, excavations further substantiated its accuracy with the discovery of a road depicted in the map that runs through the center of Jerusalem. According to the map, the main entrance to the city was through a large gate opening into a wide central street. Until now, archaeologists were not able to excavate this site due to heavy pedestrian traffic. In the wake of infrastructure work near the Jaffa Gate, large paving stones were discovered at a depth of 4 meters below ground that prove such a road existed.
East of this road we would expect to find, on the map, some indication of the former Temple Mount. But no! There are just a few nondescript buildings, south of which is a red-roofed structure, most likely the nunnery founded by the Empress Eudocia in the 5th century. The Byzantines paid the erstwhile Temple Mount their utmost disrespect—according to one account they used it as a garbage dump—because it was the holy place of a people that had refused to accept Jesus as savior, urging his crucifixion instead. On the Madaba map, therefore, the Temple Mount does not exist.