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Ancient farmhouse and monastery discovered in Israel

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Posted January 6, 2016

Archaeologists unearthed an ancient farmstead and monastery in Israeli city of Rosh Ha-‘Ayin. There are several points why it is a very interesting discovery. Firstly, it is a very old site – farmhouse is about 2,700 year old, church – around 1,500 years old. Secondly, scientists found impressive colourful mosaics and inscriptions. Finally, teenagers were invited to participate in excavations in attempts to raise public awareness of local cultural heritage.

Ancient farmhouse represents local agricultural life style. In the site scientists found millstones used to grind the grain into flour and simple rock-hewn oil presses for production of olive oil. Image credit: Griffin Aerial Photography, mfa.gov.il.

Ancient farmhouse represents local agricultural life style. In the site scientists found millstones used to grind the grain into flour and simple rock-hewn oil presses for production of olive oil. Image credit: Griffin Aerial Photography, mfa.gov.il.

The excavations in Rosh Ha-‘Ayin is a continuing project and many more discoveries are possible. However, this impressive church and very old farmhouse (dimensions being 30 × 50 meters) are the most significant findings yet.

Amit Shadman, director of the excavations, said: “The large farmhouse was preserved to a height of more than two meters. The building is 2,700 years old and included twenty-four rooms constructed around a central courtyard. A large storage compartment (silo) meant to protect the grain was exposed in the courtyard. It seems that carbohydrates were as popular then as now, and the growing and processing of grain were fairly widespread in the rural-agricultural region”.

Scientists also found other interesting things: millstones, which were used to grind the grain into flour, simple rock-hewn oil presses, two silver coins from the fourth century BCE and others.  Scientists said that farm was used for centuries until the region was abandoned in Hellenistic period.

Colourful mosaics in the ancient monastery are a highlight of the excavation. Image credit: Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority, mfa.gov.il.

Colourful mosaics in the ancient monastery are a highlight of the excavation. Image credit: Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority, mfa.gov.il.

Region was once more repopulated in the fifth century CE, when settlements of Christians were created. Christianity spread rapidly and many churches and monasteries were built. One of them, dating to the Byzantine period, was exposed on one of the hills in the area. It includes a church, an oil press, residential quarters and stables.

Probably the most impressive finding here are colourful mosaics that included geometric and other designs and a Greek inscription ascribed to a priest named Theodosius. Inscription read – “This place was built under Theodosius the priest. Peace be with you when you come, peace be with you when you go, Amen”.

Interesting fact is that scores of teenagers from preparatory programs and youth villages have participated in the excavations. Involving teenagers is meant to raise awareness of local cultural heritage and should make them more interested in archaeology. This may be needed as Israel land still needs lots of excavations and many archaeologists will be needed to make many amazing discoveries.

Source: mfa.gov.il

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