Remains of Byzantine monastery found near Jerusalem
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Remains of Byzantine monastery found near Jerusalem

Antiquities Authority uncovers oil and wine presses, mosaics outside Beit Shemesh during expansion of neighborhood

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Remains of what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Remains of what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the remains of a Byzantine monastery outside the city of Beit Shemesh west of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday.

During the expansion of the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood, archaeologists conducted a survey of the location and found the remnants of an ancient walls and cisterns. Subsequent excavations of the site unearthed an oil press, wine press and mosaics. The size and scale of the installations indicate that production was on an industrial scale, and that the residents relied upon the sale of wine and olive oil for their livelihood.

One of the mosaics found at the site bears colorful geometric designs, a cluster of grapes and flowers.

Although a church or inscription has yet to be found in the complex, archaeologists posit that the site was a Byzantine monastery, dating back some 1,500 years, based on the site’s style and dating.

A mosaic found at what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
A mosaic found at what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

“The impressive construction, the dating to the Byzantine period, the magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries,” IAA excavation directors Irene Zilberbod and Tehila Libman said in a statement. “Thus it is possible to reconstruct a scenario in which monks resided in a monastery that they established, made their living from the agricultural installations and dwelled in the rooms and carried out their religious activities.”

The new neighborhood will be constructed around the site and the archaeological remains will be preserved and developed as a landmark, the IAA said.

Aerial photo of remains that archaeologists believe were a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Aerial photo of remains that archaeologists believe were a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh. (photo credit: Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Earlier this year archaeologists unearthed a Byzantine monastery near the entrance to the Bedouin village of Hura in the Negev Desert adorned with stunning mosaic floors.

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