'Rare' Byzantine mosaic revealed in Jerusalem's Old City

August 23, 2017
An archaeologist works on a 1,500-year-old section of floor mosaic bearing the name of Byzantinian Emperor Justinian, at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, on August 23, 2017

Israeli archaeologists on Wednesday unveiled a 1,500-year-old portion of mosaic floor bearing the names of Byzantine Emperor Justinian and a senior Orthodox priest.

David Gellman, director of the excavation in east Jerusalem's walled Old City, said that while the area was rich in archaeological finds, few such inscriptions had been found.

"Direct text and letters from people back then are relatively rare," he told AFP.

The Greek inscription, dated at 550 or 551 AD, commemorates the founding of a building thought to be a hostel for pilgrims near the city's Damascus Gate.

Constantine, the Orthodox priest who founded it, was abbot of the Nea Church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the largest church in Jerusalem when it was built in 543 AD.

Gellman said the rectangular section of , 1.14 metres (3 foot 7 inches) on its longest side, "tells us about the way churches and monasteries worked back then. It makes this piece very unique".

"It tells us that the abbot, the head of the big church in Jerusalem, was not only the head of that specific church," he said.

It was discovered intact about a metre (three feet) below street level as Gellman and his team made a routine exploratory dig ahead of the arrival of workers to lay communications cables.

"We were very close to closing the excavation when I noticed that a few of the mosaic stones, which were otherwise plain white, were at a different angle and seemed to be a little darker," he said.

"I cleaned up that small corner... and found that it was the bottom left corner of the inscription itself," he added.

"At that moment I realised that we have a very unique find here."

The Old City lies in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Explore further: Archaeologists find 1,500-year-old Jerusalem street

Related Stories

Archaeologists find 1,500-year-old Jerusalem street

February 10, 2010

Archaeologists said on Wednesday they have found a 1,500-year-old Jerusalem road that was once a bustling throughfare used by throngs of Christian pilgrims and which is depicted on a famed mosaic map of the Holy Land.

Works launched to restore Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem

May 20, 2016

Christian officials have launched historic restoration work at the Tomb of Jesus inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre, site where tradition holds Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.