A sixth century monastery dating back 1,500 years has been unearthed by archaeologists in southern Israel. The monastery has almost completely intact mosaics covering the floor dating back to the Byzantine era.
The complex, which was discovered near Hura, a Bedouin village situated in the north of Israel’s Negev Desert, measures around 65 feet, and contains a prayer hall and a dining room with elaborate mosaic designs.
Officials from Israel’s Antiquities Authority said that the tiles in the mosaics have retained their vibrant colors over the years and include inscriptions in Greek and the Syriac language. These inscriptions contain the names of the monastery’s abbots – Eliyahu, Nonus, Solomon, and Ilrion, as well as the dates when each floor was laid down.
Daniel Varga, who led the excavations at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said about the discovery of the sixth-century monastery: “It seems that this monastery, located near the Byzantine settlement of Horbat Hur, is one monastery in a series of monasteries situated alongside a road that linked Transjordan with the Be’er Sheva Valley.”
The monastery has service rooms in the western wing which are paved with white mosaics and IAA officials also found a host of ceramic jars, cooking pots, kraters, bowls, glass vessels and coins strewn about the ruins.
The discovery of the monastery was made by mistake during a salvage excavation before construction at the site, which is located on Israel’s southern Highway 31. Officials plan to relocate the monastery, along with its mosaics, to the Wadi’ Attir agricultural and tourism project next to Hura.
Development projects in the history-rich Land of Israel are always proceeded by salvage excavations and ruins and mosaics are often found. Near to Bet Shemesh in central Israel, Highway 38 could only be widened after archaeologists dug several trenches near to the Eshtaol moshav.
That salvage excavation uncovered a 10,000-year-old house, and another similar excavation on Highway 44 unearthed traces of 900-year-old wealthy estates which had stunning gardens and mosaic fountains.