Ancient Christian Jewelry and Crucifixes Uncovered in Long Lost Monastery in the Holy Land

The discovery of an array of artefacts has shown the Byzantine church likely stood at the center of a vibrant Christian community in the area. Israeli Antiquities Authority

Archeologists working in the Holy Land have uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts connected to an ancient church more than 1,500 years old.

The discovery of an array of mosaics, crucifixes and jewelry has shown the Byzantine church likely stood at the center of a vibrant Christian community.

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The ceramics and coins uncovered in excavations have shown the church was probably built in the fourth century A.D. and was then expanded over a period of 300 years, becoming an expansive monastery complex into the 7th century, Haaretz reported.

The team of archeologists stumbled on the site in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh after they were asked to conduct a survey a nearby area being considered for construction. A series of trenches dug in August eventually revealed ancient stone walls and later the detailed mosaic floors below them.

"Only when we reached the floor and the associated finds could we call it a church," Benyamin Storchan, director of the site's excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

The exceptional nature of the mosaics, which show detailed artistry and the use of rare imported green tiles, illustrate the monastery was of particular importance in the region. Storchan explained birds were used commonly in motifs in Byzantine mosaics but the Beit Shemesh floor exhibited more complicated depictions of leaves and fruit.

"I have found no close parallel in any church uncovered in Israel, Jordan or Syria. It's a style that is unique to this place," Storchan said.

Expensive marble which would have to have been imported from the Byzantine Empire's provinces in modern Turkey also shows the importance of the church as a potential pilgrimage site.

Earlier archeological finds nearby uncovered a major center for the production of wine as well as buildings dedicated to making olive oil. Both of these would have been less than a minute away from the church and likely attached to the religious building.

Beit Shemesh and its surroundings were populated mostly by Christians after Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire during his rule in the early fourth century. Samaritans and Jewish communities were settled in a few remaining isolated areas in the nearby Hebron hills.