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Ancient church uncovered in southern Israel

Site contains an inscription in Greek with the names Mary and Jesus, says excavation director Dr. Daniel Varga • Church is believed to be 1,500 years old, dating back to the Byzantine era.
Yori Yalon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

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Israeli archaeologists say they have uncovered the remnants of a 1,500-year-old church near Moshav Aluma in the country's south.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the Byzantine-era site was found during the normal excavation work that takes place before any planned construction of a new neighborhood in southern Israel. Among the finds were a colorful mosaic and five inscriptions that attest to a once-vibrant Christian community in the region. A pottery workshop was also found that yielded cooking pots, bowls and lamps.

(Video which can't be easily embedded: )

Dr. Daniel Varga, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Wednesday that he had found an inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus.

"At its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a 12-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction," Varga said in a press release.

According to Varga the "spectacular basilica structure" is 22 meters (72 feet) long and 12 meters (39 feet) wide. At the front was an open yard, with a white mural floor and a well. As was customary at the time, marble columns divided the structure into three sections. One of the columns was found in secondary use in a building from the Muslim period.

Following the find, authorities have decided to preserve the site for future generations. It will be opened to the general public on Thursday and Friday. The antiquities authority is making plans to remove the mosaic floors to put them on display.

Varga believes the church was a regional spiritual center that served many communities on the road between Ashkelon and Jerusalem.

And another link about the same church:

Very beautiful mosaic work as seen in both links and the video in this particular article.

Nothing? This is so cool! Look at the mosaic work.