Ancient Jewish-Christian settlement found in Mishmar David

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Dec 3, 2006

The rare circular structure can be seen at the excavation site at Mishmar David.

The remains of an ancient Jewish and Christian settlement, which later became Muslim, dating back to the Early Islamic period and the Crusader Period have been uncovered between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

The large six-dunam settlement, which was found in Mishmar David, located between Rehovot and Latrun, was discovered during an archeological salvage excavation in the area ahead of planned construction work at the site.

The archeologists digging at the site discovered the remnants of residential buildings, villas, public buildings, streets and alleys, as well as an industrial zone, which housed agricultural installations.

Two Jewish ritual baths with water pipes leading from the house, in accordance with Jewish law, were also found at the site.

The highlight of the excavation is a round structure, about 10 meters in diameter, built of well-dressed ashlar stones.

The floor of the structure - which is preserved to a height of three meters - is paved with a polychrome mosaic decorated with geometric patterns and a palm tree motif.

The unique building has never been uncovered in any other previous archeological excavation in the country.

Israeli archeologists date the building to the Byzantine-Islamic period but are unsure of its purpose.

The director of the excavations, Dr. Eli Yannai, noted that buildings such as the one that was uncovered were usually meant to commemorate an important historic event that was of significance to the population that resided there.

"It can be a building that was erected in memory of a person who was martyred because of his religious beliefs, a miracle that occurred at the site or a visit by a saint," Yannai said.

The importance of the excavation and their contribution to the study of the past lie in the intensity of the remains, the size of the settlement, and the evidence that the population that lived there was a Christian population prior to it having converted to Islam.

The findings that support this theory are unequivocal Christian symbols such as crosses that were revealed on clay lamps, and inscriptions in ancient Greek that mention "the mother of God," a Christian saying that was characteristic of the Byzantine period.

At the same time, the bronze coins that were recovered at the site bear the names of caliphs from the Early Islamic period and some of them include the Arabic inscription: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his servant."