Archaeologists have found the remains of a Byzantine monastery dating back to the second half of the 6th Century AD (somewhere between 550-600 AD) – the early years of the so-called “Dark Ages”, which would dominate Europe for five hundred years. It was found near the village of Hura in southern Israel.
According to Megan Gannon, the site was uncovered during a construction project. Due to the region’s intense history, it is common practice for a site to be thoroughly examined for artifacts before any construction takes place. In this case, it was the construction of an interchange on Highway 31.
The monastery is rather small, measuring only twenty by thirty-five meters square. In life, the monks who lived here might have found it rather cramped. It was not as grand as those huge European monasteries from the high or late Middle Ages, but it was a start. Monasticism had begun rather recently at that time, and for the first monks, this was quite good enough. Considering their plain back-to-basics mindset, they would have regarded even this little place as more luxurious than they deserved.
The reason why they might have thought this way is down around your feet. the archaeologists were astonished to find exquisitely-preserved mosaic floors in two largest rooms. The designs include geometric patters, pictures of birds, amphorae, and even the names of some of the monasery’s abbots recorded for posterity, along with the dates that the floors were put down. The inscriptions are written in both Greek (the lingua franca of the Byzantine Empire) and in Syriac, which was one of the languages spoken in this region. Coins and the remains of pottery were also found in the site, which further helped the archaeologists date the time period of this monastery.
Dr. Daniel Varga, the leader of the team which excavated this site, said that this monastary was just one of a series of monasteries that were located in this region.
Israeli officials plan to physically re-locate the monastery, including the amazing mosaics, to a new location a short distance away so that construction on the highway can proceed.
- Discovery News. “Byzantine Monastery and Mosaics Found in Israel”, by Megan Gannon (April 1, 2014). http://news.discovery.com/history/religion/byzantine-monastery-and-mosaics-found-in-israel-140101.htm
- Sci-News.com. “Byzantine Period Monastery with Stunning Mosaics Discovered in Israel” (April 4, 2014) http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-byzantine-period-monastery-mosaics-israel-01830.html