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Confirmed: Oldest Church in Holy Land

John on January 24, 2006 at 4:21 pm




Back in November I highlighted the discovery of an ancient mosaic discovered inside a Israeli prison. Today, the Jerusalem Post has a follow up piece. The Israeli Antiquities Authority is recommending that the prison be moved so that the site can be preserved. (The other option would have been to extract the mosaic and move it to a museum.) The President of Israel notes in the story that on his recent visit to the Vatican, the Pope asked if he would be able to visit the site.

But what really caught my attention was this:

Pottery shards and coins found in the excavation date the mosaic to the first half of the third century, Tepper said during a visit by President Moshe Katsav and senior Christian religious leaders in the Holy Land.

So far as I know, this is the first firm statement of the date of this church or “chapel” as they’re calling it. It dates from 200-250AD, which is quite surprising considering that Christianity had not been legalized and was still under intense persecution during this period.

I suspect the potential tourism impact is another reason the authorities are being so accommodating. If so, I think it’s likely to work. I know my desire to visit Israel has just increased.

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Category: Archaeology |

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