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Ancient Byzantine Church Discovered outside Jerusalem
An ancient Byzantine era church was discovered recently in the Jerusalem Hills at a construction site in Nes Harim, according to Ha'aretz Newspaper. Local residents unearthed the site which previously had been covered by pine trees and terraces.
The Israel Antiquities Authority exposed the excavated church, which is paved with mosaics and decorated with an ancient inscription written in ancient Greek. Dr. Leah Di Signi, a leading expert ifn ancient inscriptions at the the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, deciphered the inscription: "O Lord God of Saint Theodorus, protect Antonius and Theodosia the illustres [a title used to distinguish high nobility in the Byzantine period] - Theophylactus and John the priest [or priests]. [Remember o Lord] Mary and John who have offe[red - ] in the 6th indiction. Lord, have pity of Stephen."
As first reported in Ha'aretz, the first excavation in the site in November 2008 revealed the church's narthex - the broad entrance at the front of the church's nave. A carpet of polychrome mosaics adorned with geometric patterns of intertwined rhomboids separated by flower bud motifs was inside. Much of the mosaic was defaced and destroyed by vandalism.
The same excavation also revealed a complex wine press that was partly exposed consisting of at least two upper treading floors and and arched cells, likely designed to assist in the fermentation process.
According to archaeologist Daniel Ein Mor, "We know of other Byzantine churches and sites that are believed to be Byzantine monasteries, which are located in the surrounding region. The excavation at Nes Harim supplements our knowledge about the nature of the Christian-Byzantine settlement in the rural areas between the main cities in this part of the country during the Byzantine period, among them Bet Guvrin, Emmaus and Jerusalem."
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