In a pursuit of antique robbers, experts uncovered a 1,500-year-old church and a beautiful mosaic floor in Hirbet Madras, known as the site of a large, important Jewish community from the Second Temple period that was destroyed during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE.
Digging in Hirbet Madras, located southwest of Jerusalem began in December after inspectors from the Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft discovered illegal excavations by antique robbers.
The Byzantine church was discovered to be built inside a large public compound with buildings that have well-preserved mosaic floors with geometric designs and images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks. Initial research thought that the building was a synagogue. Artifacts discovered include coins, stone vessels, lamps and various pottery vessels from the ancient Jewish ruins. Underground structures like rooms, water installations, traps, and a tomb were also found.
The researchers who visited the site believed that the site is the burial place of the prophet Zecharia and the church is a memorial church designed to mark his tomb.
In the meantime, the church will be covered and the planning for the conservation of the site will begin for future public display.