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Byzantine monastery located in Negev desert

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced a few days ago that a 1,500 year-old Byzantine monastery with large floor mosaics has been discovered near a Bedouin village by the name of Hura, in the Negev Desert, near Horbat Hur, a Byzantine settlement.

The monastery was found to have been 38 meters by 20 meters and was arranged on an east-west axis. This east-west arrangement is common among Byzantine churches. The facility contains both a dining room and a prayer hall which are embellished with detailed patterns including birds, flowers, baskets, animals, and leaves.

IAA officials state that there are Greek and Syriac inscriptions which include important historical information such as the names of the monastery’s abbots and the dates from when the floors were laid. The abbots’ names were Nonus, Solomon, Eliyahu, and Ilrion. The dates indicate that the floors were constructed in the latter half of the sixth century.

Even after so many centuries, the mosaic tiles are still vibrantly colored in red, blue, green and yellow. In addition to the elaborate tile floors in the dining hall and prayer room, there are four tiled service rooms in a western wing. These four rooms are floored with white tiles. Additionally, archaeologists located glass artifacts, pottery, kraters, and coins from the period.

The Byzantine monastery was found during a salvage excavation. Projects entailing construction may easily destroy or cover hidden ruins so salvage excavations are performed prior such projects. The specific excavation was undertaken because of a planned interchange on Israel’s Highway 31. Officials stated that the monastery will be relocated to the Israel Wadi Attir tourism and agricultural project.