JERICHO, Israel, June 21 (UPI) -- A giant man-made underground cavern from the era of the Roman Empire has been found in Israel's Jordan Valley, scientists say.
Researchers from Haifa University's Department of Archaeology say the cave was used as a quarry and perhaps later as an ancient monastery, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.
The cave was found in March just north of Jericho and is the largest man-made cave ever found in Israel, the newspaper said. Its main hall is reportedly held up by 22 pillars, on which are carved roman numerals, a Roman legion's pennant, crosses and zodiac-like symbols.
Professor Adam Zertal, who headed the dig, told the Post he dates the cavern to 1 A.D.
"Initially, the place was utilized as a quarry, which was active for 400 to 500 years," Zertal said. "But the other findings definitely give the impression that the cave was used for other purposes, such as a monastery, and perhaps even a hideaway."