Archaeologists uncover 1,300-year-old church in northern Israel

A 1,300-year old church, apparently part of a monastery, was uncovered in the village  of Kfar Kama, near Mount Tabor.

By World Israel News Staff

A 1,300-year old church with ornate mosaic floors was discovered recently in an excavation in the Circassian village of Kfar Kama, near Kfar Tabor in northern Israel.

The excavation, directed by archaeologist Nurit Feig of the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with Prof. Moti Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, and with the assistance of volunteers, took place prior to the building of a playground, initiated by the Kfar Kama Local Council and the Jewish National Fund.

“The church, measuring 12 × 36 m, includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer, and a central hall. Particular to this church is the existence of three apses (prayer niches), while most churches were characterized by a single apse,” Feig said.

“The nave and the aisles were paved with mosaics which partially survived. Their colorful decoration stands out, incorporating geometric patterns, and blue, black, and red floral patterns. A special discovery was the small reliquary, a stone box used to preserve sacred relics,” she added.

A ground-penetrating radar inspection operated by Dr. Shani Libb revealed additional rooms at the site yet to be excavated. According to the researchers, “it is quite possible that this large complex was a monastery.”

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Catholic Archbishop Dr. Youssef Matta, head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, personally visited the site and was inspired by the ancient remains.

In the early 1960s, a smaller church with two chapels was excavated inside the village of Kfar Kama and was dated by the finds to the first half of the sixth century CE. “This was probably the village church, whilst the church now discovered was probably part of a contemporary monastery on the outskirts of the village,” Prof. Moti Aviam surmises.

The new discovery hints at the apparent importance of the Christian village settled in the Byzantine period close to Mount Tabor, a site of primary religious significance for Christianity and identified as the site of the Transfiguration. In 1876, when the Circassian Shapsug tribe first settled in Kfar Kama, they used the stones of the ancient village to build their houses.

The discovery of the church in Kfar Kama will contribute to an extensive research project on the Christian settlement in the Galilee that is being carried out by Prof. Aviam and Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi of the Kinneret Institute of Galilean Archaeology.