The church of the Nile is one of two sacred buildings discovered in the Nabataean city of Mamshit (Memphis), which was originally a rest stop for caravans on the road that led through the Negev desert to Petra, along the Silk Road. It can be ascribed to the byzantine period, and has a polychrome mosaic pavement with a wealth of symbolic figures and inscriptions linked to Christian worship.
In 1994, the CCA, Centro di Conservazione Archeologica, was asked to plan and implement a program for in situ conservation of the mosaic. Unfortunately, a month after the work had begun, the mosaic was brutally vandalized. In just one night, unknown suspects ravaged the entire church with pickaxes. About 54% of the apse mosaic and 30% of the nave no longer existed – about 30 m2 of mosaic were destroyed from a total of 85 m2. Clearly, the conservation program had to change.
The new program involved: gathering all the mosaic tiles and vandalized fragments; packing and sending the recovered material to Rome; complete documentation of the damage; reburial of the apse and conservation treatment of surviving parts of the nave; complete reconstruction of damaged parts in the laboratory and their subsequent replacement on site.
The future of this mosaic now hinges on a plan for ordinary maintenance, implementing a contact covering system, and surveillance of the site.