Byzantine Empire period church discovered during road work aimed at linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A 1,500-year-old church was discovered during work to broaden Israel’s main highway, which links Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, archaeologists said Wednesday.
The church was part of an ancient road station frequented by travelers between Jerusalem and the coastal plain including ancient ports such as Jaffa, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.
The complex was uncovered outside Jerusalem, near the entrance to the town of Abu Gosh along Highway Number 1.
In Israel, excavations are compulsory before any construction can begin and the archaeological work was funded by the country’s National Roads Company, which is widening and upgrading the main highway.
The site lies next to a seep spring known as Ain Naqa’a.
The 16-meter-long church includes a side chapel that is 6.5 meters long and 3.5 meters wide and has a white mosaic floor. A baptismal font in the form of a four-leafed clover, symbolizing a cross, was found in the chapel’s corner.
Fragments of red-colored plaster indicated that the church walls had frescoes. Next to the church, rooms were found that were probably used as dwelling quarters and for storage. One of them contained a large amount of pottery tiles.
Oil lamps, coins, glass vessels, marble fragments and mother-of-pearl shells were also found, testifying to intensive activity at the site.
“Along this road, which was apparently already established in the Roman period, other settlements and road stations have previously been discovered that served those travelling the route in ancient times,” said excavation director Annette Nagar.
“This road station ceased to be used at the end of the Byzantine Period, although the road beside which it was built was renewed and continued to be in use until modern times.”
IAA district archaeologist Pablo Betzer said the authority and the National Roads Company had agreed “to cover over the site and preserve it for future generations.”
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