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Ships in the heart of the desert: the remains of an ancient church, on the walls of which ships were carved about 1500 years ago, were discovered in the excavations of the Antiquities Authority in the north of the Negev

The excavations were conducted as part of the expansion of a neighborhood in the city of Rahat, at the initiative of the Authority for the Development and Regulation of Bedouin Settlements in the Negev.

The remains of the church discovered in Rahat. Photo - Assaf Peretz, Antiquities Authority
The remains of the church discovered in Rahat. Photo - Assaf Peretz, Antiquities Authority

The remains of a Byzantine church whose walls were carved with ship decorations were discovered in the excavation of the Antiquities Authority in the north of the Negev.

The discovery was made in a large archaeological excavation conducted by the Antiquities Authority in recent years south of the city of Rahat in preparation for the construction of a new neighborhood for the residents of the city of Rahat and the Bedouin diaspora, funded by the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority. The discovery will be presented for the first time on Tuesday 4.6 at the Rahat conference, which will deal with the ancient past of Rahat as revealed in the excavations.

A ship model discovered in the excavation of Rahat. Photo: Yuli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority
A ship model discovered in the excavation of Rahat. Photo: Yuli Schwartz, Antiquities Authority

"This is a greeting from the Christian pilgrims who arrived by ship to the port of Gaza," say researchers Oren Shmueli, Dr. Elana Kogan Zahavi and Dr. Noah David Michael, the directors of the Barhat excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, and Prof. Debi Zweikel from the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa. "The site revealed in the excavations tells the story of the settlement in the northern Negev at the end of the Byzantine period and at the beginning of the early Islamic period. The pilgrims who visited the church left a personal mark in the form of engravings of ships on its walls. The ship is indeed an ancient Christian symbol, but in this case - apparently, it is also a graphic description of the ships in which they sailed on their way to the Holy Land."

The site where the church with the engravings was discovered in Berhat was located near an ancient Roman road, which led from the port city of Gaza on the Mediterranean coast to Beer Sheva, the main city in the Negev. "The pilgrims came on a pilgrimage that went along the Roman roads, to the holy sites of Christianity, such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the monasteries in the Negev, and Sinai. "It is possible to suggest that their first stop after getting off the ships in Gaza port was the church that was discovered in the excavations we conducted south of the city of Rahat. This is about half a day's walk from the port city," say the researchers.

According to Prof. Debi Zweikel from the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, "One of the ships carved on the wall of the church is depicted in general lines, but its slightly pointed prow and oars on both sides of the vessel can be distinguished. The engraving may show a top view of the ship, although it appears to be the artist's attempt to present the ship in three dimensions. The lines on the stern of the ship may represent the wake left by the oars in the sea. Engravings of a ship or crosses, left behind by Christian pilgrims as evidence of their visit to the pilgrimage site, are also known to us from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem."

Another engraving depicts what appears to be a two-masted merchant ship. The main mast is without a sail, but there seems to be a small miracle at its upper end. The front mast is slightly tilted towards the bow and carries a sail known as an artemon. The high level of detail in the carving indicates that it was made by a person who was well versed in maritime matters. "Since the ship is upside down, it is likely that the person who placed the stone during the construction of the structure was not aware of the existence of the engraving, or was not interested in it."

According to Eli Escozido, director of the Antiquities Authority, "The surprising and special discovery of ship decorations in a church from the Byzantine period in the northern Negev opens a window into the world of Christian pilgrims who visited the Holy Land about 1500 years ago, and provides first-hand evidence of the ships they sailed in, and of the ancient shipping world. I invite everyone who is interested in archeology to the first Rahat conference, which will be held at the beginning of June, where many discoveries will be presented that were uncovered during the large excavation conducted by the Antiquities Authority in the city."

More of the topic in Hayadan:

3 תגובות

  1. It seems your site is redundant and not circumcised. A reporter for Philoni's newspaper

  2. Is there maybe a photo without the hairy hand that hides? Thanks in advance, people of Israel.

  3. A.G.N.
    Peace
    I and Rom Yaakov live in Halabhim and are interested in receiving training on the spot. I am interested in archaeology.
    Thanks in advance
    and Rom Jacob
    0506231952

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