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Byzantine monastery that dates back to the 6th century discovered in the Negev

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday that the remnants of a Byzantine monastery were found near the town of Hura in the Negev, dating back about 1400 years.

While conducting excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered the floor of the monastery paved with mosaics and rare colours that reflect the Byzantine culture of that period. The monastery’s length measures 35 meters, with a width of 30 meters. It includes four prayer rooms and a dining hall, all of which are decorated with mosaics.

The excavations began about a month ago in the wake of development operations that are taking place in the region for the construction of a street that leads to Arad.

In each room of the monastery, the Authority discovered a title that refers to the date the mosaic work was completed as well as the official dedication; one room was found to be dedicated to Ilario and completed in 596 AD.

The newspaper reported that the dining hall is the best decorated room. It has three separate entrances and in the centre of the hall there is a variety of graphics. Despite the issuance of an imperial warrant in 520 AD banning the drawing of crosses on the ground so as to prevent worshipers from trampling on them, several crosses could be spotted in the mosaics. Haaretz quotes one of the archaeologists as saying that “since this monastery lay in a remote area, the designers found indirect ways of depicting crosses, in order to contend with the prohibition.”

It is assumed that an earthquake is what led to the collapse of the monastery’s walls.

Incidentally, the village of Hura where the monastery was found is nearby the Byzantine village of Khirbet Hur, located to its east, which is though to include three churches that have not been discovered yet.

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