Remains of Byzantine monastery found near Jerusalem

Remains of Byzantine monastery found near Jerusalem

Remains of Byzantine monastery found near Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority has discovered a large and impressive compound dating back to the Byzantine era in Ramat Bet Shemesh, where there are an oil press, a wine press and a mosaic.

Excavations were financed by the Construction and Housing Ministry and were carried out as part of Bet Shemesh expansion.

Byzantine monastic complex unearthed in Israel Aerial photo of remains that archaeologists believe were a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh

The impressive size of agricultural installations indicates that these facilities were used not only for domestic use but for industrial production.

Several rooms were revealed in the residential portion of the compound, each of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them.

Part of a colourful mosaic was exposed in a room where an apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved.

In the adjacent room, another multi-coloured mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame.

Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.An archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh brought to light remarkable finds.

During the survey blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface.

These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

A mosaic found at what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area.

An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area.

A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat.

The finds revealed in the excavation indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood.

According to Irene Zilberbod and Tehila libman, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We believe this is the site of a monastery from the Byzantine period.

It is true we did not find a church at the site or an inscription or any other unequivocal evidence of religious worship; nevertheless, the impressive construction, the dating to the Byzantine period, the magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries.

Thus it is possible to reconstruct a scenario in which monks resided in a monastery that they established, made their living from the agricultural installations and dwelled in the rooms and carried out their religious activities.”

Remains of what archaeologists believe is a Byzantine monastery found near Beit Shemesh

Dr. Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, notes that “after exposing the compound and recognizing its importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ministry of Construction and Housing undertook the measures necessary for preserving and developing the site as an archaeological landmark in the heart of the new neighborhood slated to be built there”.

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