A 1,500-year-old stable believed to have been demolished in an earthquake was unearthed by an archaeological team in the Negev desert and identified by a meter-thick layer of animal manure at the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday.
According to a statement from the IAA, the Byzantine-era stable in the Avdat national park was discovered within a cave, which was split into several rooms. Paintings of crosses were found on the walls of the cave, apparently used by monks.
The team also found stone basins thought to be used to feed the animals in the stable. The researchers were able to confirm the site was a stable due to the large quantities of donkey, sheep, and goat manure in the area.
“The identification as a stable was corroborated by an almost 1 m thick layer of organic matter (donkey, sheep and goat manure) on the floor of the building. It seems that the place was destroyed by an earthquake that decimated the city of Avdat in the early seventh century CE,” the statement said.
The excavation was led by Professor Scott Bucking of DePaul University and Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Students from the Har Hanegev Field School sifted through the materials and found grape seeds, which are expected to shed light on the eating habits and agriculture of the locals.
“The researchers hope that the grape seeds they found, which were well-preserved because of the dry conditions that prevail in the region, will allow them to extract the DNA of the ancient plant and identify the different species that were grown in the area,” the statement said.