1,500-year-old church, elaborate mosaic found

Archaeologists announce the uncovering of an impressive Byzantine structure in the south; site open to public for two days

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The elaborate mosaic at a Byzantine church uncovered by Israeli archaeologists near Kiryat Gat (photo credit: courtesy/IAA)
The elaborate mosaic at a Byzantine church uncovered by Israeli archaeologists near Kiryat Gat (photo credit: courtesy/IAA)

A 1,500-year-old church with an impressive mosaic and five inscriptions was uncovered in the south of Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authorities announced Wednesday.

“An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide,” said Daniel Varga, one of the two archaeologists directing the excavations, which were funded by the Israel Land Authority and located near Kiryat Gat. “The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic’s construction.”

The mosaic in the nave, or main hall, was especially striking, with 40 medallions depicting a zebra, leopard, turtle, wild boar, birds, and various geometrical designs. The medallions also contain dedicatory inscriptions in honor of two local church figures, Demetrios and Herakles. Two narrow halls to side of the nave also featured colored mosaic floors.

Archaeologists uncovered evidence of a flourishing local Byzantine culture at the site, including a pottery workshop and glass vessels.
The region, near Israel’s southern coastal plain, was home to an important Byzantine settlement. Archaeologists believe that residents produced and sold wine that found its way across the Mediterranean region. The church itself, which served the surrounding towns, sat on the road between Ashkelon and Jerusalem, where archaeologists have uncovered other Byzantine settlements.

This, however, is the first Byzantine church found in the area.

The site, at Moshav Aluma. will be open to the public Thursday and Friday of this week, before it is covered again.

IAA said it will cover over again the remains of the church itself, but it plans on removing the mosaic and putting it on display in a local museum or visitors’ center.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.