The remains of a large Byzantine-era church has been discovered on an even more ancient road at the entrance to Abu Ghosh, a town in the hills just off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.
The current excavation season uncovered a church measuring about 16 m in length. The church featured a large side chapel, 6.5 by 3.5 meters in area, with a white mosaic stone floor. A baptismal font in the form of a four-leafed clover, symbolizing the cross, was installed in the chapel’s northeast corner, the Israel Antiquities Authority says.
Fragments of red-colored plaster found in the rubble strewn throughout the building indicate that the church walls had been decorated with frescoes, the IAA adds. The site had a water source – the ‘Ain Naqa‘a seep spring.
Rooms that may have served as dwelling quarters and storage were uncovered just west of the church.
Among the other finds at the site were oil lamps, coins, glass vessels, marble fragments, and mother-of-pearl shells.
As are so many archaeological finds in Israel, this one was made by the National Roads Company, in this case while expanding the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. The company is also funding the excavation by the IAA, headed by Annette Nagar.
“The road station and its church were built in the Byzantine period beside the ancient road leading between Jerusalem and the coastal plain,” Nagar said in a statement. . . . .