Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Byzantine Basilica Discovered near Kiryat Gat

Archaeologists in Israel revealed an impressive Byzantine church building with beautiful mosaic pavements at Moshav Aluma near Kiryat Gat. The site is in the eastern coastal plain, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Ashkelon and 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Jerusalem.

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavations, Daniel Varga, describes the structure in a press release issued by the IAA:

An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide. The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction.

The press release gives more detail of the mosaic floor:

The main hall (the nave) has a colored mosaic floor adorned with vine tendrils to form forty medallions. The medallions contain depictions of different animals, including: zebra, leopard, turtle, wild boar, various winged birds and botanical and geometric designs. Three medallions contain dedicatory inscriptions in Greek commemorating senior church dignitaries: Demetrios and Herakles. The two were heads of the local regional church. On both sides of the central nave are two narrow halls (side aisles), which also have colored mosaic floors depicting botanical and geometric designs, as well as Christian symbols.

The site will be open to the public on Thursday and Friday (Jan 23–24) before the mosaics are removed for future display in a local museum. The church building itself will be buried. More information is available in the press release. The photos posted below are available via this link. Brief news articles have been published by the Jerusalem Post, Washington Post, and Times of Israel.

1Excavation of the Byzantine basilica at Moshav Aluma

2An excavation volunteer cleans the mosaic floor

3 (1)

Mosaic floor of the Byzantine basilica
All photos by Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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