It seems that almost every time there is digging related to a new project in Israel, something ancient is discovered. Such was the case with the development of a new Jewish National fund sponsored playground in the Lower Galilee. A 1,300-year old church with ornate mosaic floors was discovered in the village of Kfar Kama near Mt. Tabor.
Situated in the Lower Galilee the ancient church was colorfully decorated with geometric and floral patterns of blue, black and red. Also discovered was a small reliquary, a stone box to preserve sacred relics.
Archaeologist Nurit Feig, who led the excavations, said that the 12 by 36 meter church contained a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall. Interestingly while most churches were characterized by a single apse, this church had three apses or prayer niches. Earlier this week, the Catholic Archbishop, Dr. Youssef Matta, Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, visited the site to view the ancient remains.
Additional rooms at the site have not yet been excavated but archaeologists believe that the complex may have been a monastery.
In the early 1960s, a smaller church,with two chapels, also dated to the first half of the 6th century CE was excavated inside the village of Kfar Kama. According to Prof. Moti Aviam, believed that that discovery was of the village church, while the recent discovery is a monastery on the outskirts of town.
This new discovery underscores the importance of early Christian settlement in this region during the Byzantine period. The area lies close to Mt. Tabor, a prominent Christian site considered to be the location of the transfiguration of Jesus.
Prof. Moti Aviam and Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi, of the Kinneret Institute of Galilean Archaeology in the Kinneret Academic College, are conducting extensive research on Christian settlement in the Galilee.