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1,500-year-old church uncovered near Jerusalem

The church was part of a road station established in the Roman era.

By
Ed Adamczyk
Archeologist Annette Nagar from the Israeli Antiquities Authority examines a child baptismal in an ancient Byzantine church dating back 1,500 years in Beit Nakofa, near Jerusalem. According to archeologists, the church was used by pilgrims on the ancient road to Jerusalem from the coastal plain. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Archeologist Annette Nagar from the Israeli Antiquities Authority examines a child baptismal in an ancient Byzantine church dating back 1,500 years in Beit Nakofa, near Jerusalem. According to archeologists, the church was used by pilgrims on the ancient road to Jerusalem from the coastal plain. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

JERUSALEM, June 10 (UPI) -- A 1,500-year-old Byzantine church was discovered while widening a highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

A road station and church, with a mosaic floor and a baptismal font, were found, as well as oil lamps, coins, glass vessels and red-colored plaster indicating the church walls were decorated with frescoes.

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"The current excavation season uncovered a church measuring about 16 meters [52 feet] in length. The church includes a side chapel 6.5 meters [21 feet] long and 3.5 meters [11 feet] wide, and a white mosaic floor. A baptismal font in the form of a four-leafed clover (a symbol of the cross) was installed in the chapel's northeast corner," said antiquities authority spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz.

The ancient church was built inside a way station during the era of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire, circa 330-1204, on a road leading to Jerusalem, not unlike Israel's current Highway 1, the site of the unexpected discovery.

"Along this road, which was apparently already established in the Roman period, other settlements and road stations have previously been discovered that served those traveling the route in ancient times. Included in the services provided along the route were churches, " said IAA excavation director Annette Nagar.

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