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Researchers hope find is Zechariah’s tomb

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a 1,500-year-old church in the Judean hills that may house the tomb of the Prophet Zechariah

  • Israel
  • February 7, 2011
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The Byzantine church located southwest of Jerusalem, excavated over the last two months, will be visible only for another week before archaeologists cover it again with soil for its own protection, NPR reports.

The small basilica with an exquisitely decorated floor was active between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D., said the dig’s leader, Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. He said the floor was “one of the most beautiful mosaics to be uncovered in Israel in recent years.”

Archaeologists began digging at the site, known as Hirbet Madras, in December. The Antiquities Authority discovered several months earlier that antiquities thieves had begun plundering the ruins, which sit on an uninhabited hill not far from an Israeli farming community, NPR sas.

An empty underground tomb was also discovered at the site, which some scholars, among them archaeologists Dr. Uzi Dahari and Prof. Yoram Tzafrir, believe was venerated in the Byzantine period as the tomb of Zechariah the prophet, based on an inscription on the Madaba Map, Haaretz adds.

The latter was a map of the Holy Land that was part of the mosaic floor of a sixth-century church in Jordan. It contains many names of sites and has been proven accurate in many cases.

“On the map a monument appears in this area marked as the tomb of Zechariah the prophet. A church appears on the map next to a horseshoe-shaped structure. When we came to the site we saw that the ancient tomb under the church had a horseshoe shape,” Ganor said.

However, he also says this was one of many theories now under study.

If the tomb is that of Zechariah, according to Ganor, it could explain the grand exterior of the church, featuring carved crosses and other designs, which was unusual among Byzantine churches elsewhere in the country, Haaretz notes.

SOURCE

“>1,500-Year-Old Church Found In Israel (NPR)
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