Archaeological excavations on Israel’s Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway 1 have uncovered a large complex of buildings, including a church, dating from the Byzantine period.

Archeologists have identified the ancient site as a rest station on the road between Jerusalem and the Coastal Plain.

According to Annette Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the complex is one of several similar sites previously discovered along the route, now traced by the major Israeli highway that links Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“Along this road, which was apparently already established in the Roman period, other settlements and road stations have previously been discovered that served those traveling the route in ancient times,” Nagar explained in a statement to the press.

She noted that these stations frequently included churches, citing the examples of the neighboring sites of Qiryat Ye‘arim (the Biblical Kiriath-Jearim, where the Ark of the Covenant is said to have rested on its way to Jerusalem) and at Emmaus (where according to the Gospels Jesus appeared after his resurrection).

The present church, approximately 16 meters long, contains a white mosaic floor and a side chapel containing a baptismal font in the form of a four-leaf clover symbolizing the cross. Although t1,500 Year-old Church Discovered near Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highwayhe church’s wall are bare, fragments of red-colored plaster found in the rubble indicate that they had been decorated with frescoes.

The numerous finds uncovered at the site, which lies near the Israeli Arab village of Abu Gosh just outside Jerusalem, suggest that in its heyday, the road station was a hub of commercial activity. In addition to a large cache of pottery tiles unearthed in one of the storage rooms, the excavations yielded numerous artifacts testifying to busy commerce, including oil lamps, coins, glass vessels, marble fragments, and mother-of-pearl shells.

Tazpit News Agency