Biblical Archaeology Review 24:4, July/August 1998


Excavation Yields Huge Church

Palestinian construction workers widening a highway in northern Gaza have unearthed an ancient mosaic from one of the most extensive Byzantine church complexes ever discovered in the Holy Land. The fifth- to sixth-century A.D. ruins consist of the church itself, a chapel, a baptistry and an adjacent cemetery. This enormous complex measures approximately 106 feet long and 100 feet wide, and according to archaeologists from the École Biblique called in as consultants to the excavation, there may be more: “There could be a complete monastery and village,” say professors Jean-Michel de Tarragon and Jean-Baptiste Humbert, based on the discovery of nearby wall remains and pot fragments.

Working with medical scalpels to avoid damaging the 1,500-year-old mosaics, archaeologists, led by Yasser Mattar of the Gaza Department of Antiquities and the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, have uncovered several mosaic carpets depicting mythological creatures and exotic animals. One mosaic, dubbed “The Cook Book,” depicts smoked fish, lobsters, sausages, fruits and vegetables together with kitchen utensils.

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