A Byzantine church with elaborate mosaic floors has been discovered in the Jericho area of the West Bank, the Civil Administration said in a January 11 statement. The Civil Administration — the government body that oversees activity in the West Bank — did not say when the church was discovered by its archeology unit working at the site.
“It dated the church to the 6th century AD, and noted that it was still being used during the Early Muslim Period a hundred years later. Although Islam bans the display of icons and images in public places, the mosaic floors showed no indications of damage from destructive iconoclasm.”
The church covers 250 square meters, large enough to have served as one of the larger Christian places of worship in the region at the time. Its nave has been almost completely preserved and is covered with a mosaic depicting vine braids and animal figures.
The construction included materials not found locally, such as marble columns and black bitumen stone that would have required great effort to transport from other areas, a testimony to the wealth of the church's builders, according to the press release.
“A three-meter-long inscription, containing five lines in Greek and found in the prayer area, commemorates Georgios and Nonus, apparently two public figures donated to the construction of the church.”
The edifice survived a major earthquake in 749 AD, which destroyed other churches and buildings throughout the region, although this one was abandoned before this landmark event and its entrance was deliberately sealed off.
“The civil administration sees great importance in the discovery of antiquities and will continue archaeological excavations for the continued discovery of the area’s glorious past,” the statement said.
The Civil Administration said it intends to move the edifice and display it in the Mosaic Museum at the Good Samaritan site near the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.