Vivid mosaics, kitchenware & coins were also found at the excavation in the Israeli Bedouin town in the northern Negev Desert.
An impressive monastery dating to the Byzantine period, some 1,500 years ago, has been discovered at the entrance to the Israeli Bedouin town of Hura in the northern Negev Desert.
The structure, measuring 20 × 35 meters, is divided into halls built along an east–west axis, the most outstanding of which are the prayer hall and dining room with their mosaic carpets.
The prayer hall is paved with a mosaic on which a pattern of leaves is vibrantly portrayed in blue, red, yellow and green colors. The dining room floor is a colorful mosaic pavement depicting floral motifs, geometric decorations, baskets and even a pair of birds.
According to Daniel Varga, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It seems that this monastery, located near the Byzantine settlement of Horbat Hur, is one monastery in a series of monasteries situated alongside a road that linked Transjordan with the Be’er Sheva‘ Valley.”
The mosaic carpets also include four Greek dedicatory inscriptions denoting the names of the monastery’s abbots: Eliyahu, Nonus, Solomon and Ilrion, and the dates when the pavements were constructed in the different halls.
These inscriptions helped archaeologists in dating the monastery to the second half of the sixth century. One of the inscriptions is bi-lingual. In addition to the Greek there is also a section of the inscription that is written in the Syriac language.
The monastery’s western wing, which is divided into four service rooms, is paved with a white mosaic, much of which was destroyed following the collapse of the building at the end of the Byzantine period.
Various pottery assemblages were discovered during the excavation, as well. These include large jars, cooking pots and bowls. In addition, numerous and sundry glass vessels ascribed to the Byzantine period were discovered, as well as coins. These finds indicate there was a rich material culture in the monastery.
The edifice was discovered in the course of a salvage excavation by the IAA for the purpose of building an interchange.
The monastery, including its mosaics, will be relocated to the Wadi ‘Attir agricultural/tourism project adjacent to Hura.
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