Archaeologists unearth important Byzantine-era inscription in Jerusalem

Archaeologists in Jerusalem uncovered a Greek inscription mentioning the Byzantine emperor Justinian, which they described as an “archaeological miracle.”  

Israeli archaeologists recently came across a surprising and existing item – a Greek inscription mentioning the Byzantine emperor Justinian on a mosaic floor in a room that was probably used as a hostel for Christian pilgrims.

The 1,500-year-old mosaic floor was discovered this summer by chance, like many other archeological discoveries in Israel, following construction prior to the installation of a communications cable near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

‘An Archaeological Miracle’

David Gellman, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), described the inscription’s survival as “an archaeological miracle.”

The excavation exposed ancient remains that were severely damaged by infrastructure groundwork over the last few decades.

‘We were about to close the excavation, when all of a sudden, a corner of the mosaic inscription peeked out between the pipes and cables. Amazingly, it had not been damaged,” Gellman recounted.

An Archaeologist’s Dream

“Every archaeologist dreams of finding an inscription in their excavations, especially one so well preserved and almost entirely intact,” he added.

Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an expert on ancient Greek inscriptions, deciphered the inscription, which reads, “In the time of our most pious emperor Flavius Justinian/ also this entire building Constantine the most God-loving priest and abbot/ established and raised, in the 14th indiction.”

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Di Segni explained that the inscription commemorates the founding of the building by Constantine, the priest.

“Indiction is an ancient method of counting years, for taxation purposes. Based on historical sources, the mosaic can be dated to the year 550/551 AD,” she said.

Gellman pointed out that the Damascus Gate served for hundreds of years as the main northern entrance to Jerusalem.

Understanding Jerusalem in Byzantine Era

“Knowing that, it is no surprise that this area is rich with archaeological remains. In the Byzantine period, with the emergence of Christianity, churches, monasteries and hostels for pilgrims were built in the area north of the gate, and the area became one of the most important and active areas of the city,” he said.

The two people mentioned in the inscription are well known from both ancient historical sources and archaeological findings.

“This new inscription helps us understand Justinian’s building projects in Jerusalem, ” Di Segni said. “The rare combination of archaeological finds and historical sources, woven together, is incredible to witness, and they throw important light on Jerusalem’s past.”

The ancient inscription was removed from the site by IAA conservation experts and is being treated in the IAA ‘s mosaic workshop in Jerusalem.

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By: World Israel News Staff