The ruins of a 1,500-year-old church and monastery have been unearthed near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh in an excavation led by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
More than 1,000 Israeli students assisted the effort, which uncovered Byzantine-era buildings with full mosaic floors and marble items.
Several walls discovered in the excavation were made of expensive smooth stones imported from Turkey.
“We were surprised by how well the findings were preserved, as well as by the wealth and beauty we discovered,” said Benyamin Storchan, director of the excavation for the IAA.
“This wealth may prove that the large building, which served as a monastery, was an important center, and it could be that it was one of the main pilgrimage centers in the Judean plain,” he said.
According to the IAA, the monastery was abandoned in the 7th century C.E. and only a small portion of the entire compound has been unearthed.
The archaeological dig was initiated ahead of the construction of a new residential neighborhood in Ramat Beit Shemesh. JN