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Archaeological discovery of church in Israel

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church in Israel - The Catholic Weekly
An archaeologist points to wall art at the site of a Byzantine-period church in the northern Negev, an Israeli desert. According to archaeologists, it opens a window to the world of Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land 1,500 years ago. The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of the art 23 May, 2024. (OSV News photo/courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

The discovery of a Byzantine-period church in the northern Negev, with wall art displaying ships, opens a window to the world of Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land 1500 years ago, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The drawings provide first-hand evidence about the ships they travelled in and the maritime world of that time,” said IAA Director Eli Escusido, describing the finds in southern Israel’s large desert as “surprising and intriguing.”

The IAA has been carrying out a rescue excavation for several years at the archaeological site located in the Bedouin city of Rahat in preparation for a neighbourhood expansion project.

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Excavation directors called the find “a greeting from Christian pilgrims” who arrived by ship to Gaza port, telling the story of settlement in the Northern Negev at the end of the Byzantine period (from approximately AD 395 — when the Roman Empire was split — to 1453) and in the beginning of the early Islamic period.

The archaeologists suggest Christian pilgrims visited the church after landing in the port, leaving their personal mark in the form of ship drawings on its walls. Though depictions of ships were used as a Christian symbol in ancient time, they said they believed that in this case the drawings of ships were a true graphical depiction of the real ships in which the pilgrims travel to the Holy Land.

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