A 1,500-year-old church has been uncovered in Israel, complete with an ancient, intricate mosaic.

The artifact was found in Alum, 30 miles outside of Tel Aviv, during excavation in the lead up to a construction project.

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“An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide,” said Dr. Daniel Varga, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of the excavation. “The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide-open courtyard paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern.”

The Byzantine-era church includes a tiled mosaic floor that depicts animals, botanical designs, and a symbol of Christianity known as a “Christogram.”

In this period, crosses were not used in floor mosaics, to prevent individuals walking across imagery of Christ. Instead, a design known as a Christogram, a “type of monogram of the name Jesus,” was used to represent the Christian messiah.

“Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic’s construction,” Varga added.

The mosaic will be carefully removed from the construction site and transported to a museum for preservation.

Meanwhile, IAA researchers are saying the church discovery is unique to the area, and marks a historic find for the region under excavation.

“We found several other settlements, including a large one near Hamei Yoav, but we did not find a church,” Saar Ganor, the IAA’s Ashkelon district archaeologist. “This is evidently the major church of the region.”

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