Israeli archaeologists have recently excavated a 2,000-year-old Roman basilica in the coastal city of Ashkelon.
According to CBN News, the ancient building was unearthed during a conservation and restoration project in Tel Ashkelon National Park. It is believed to be the largest of its kind to be ever found in Israel.
“The huge building is covered with a roof and divided into three parts – a central hall and two side halls,” according to Dr. Rachel Bar-Natan, Saar Ganor, and Fredrico Kobrin, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The hall was surrounded with rows of marble columns and capitals, which rose to an estimated height of 13 meters and supported the building’s roof. The floor and walls were built of marble.”
Natan noted that the basilica was first discovered in the 1920s by British archaeologist John Garstang who at the time led an expedition for the Palestinian Exploration Fund, The Jerusalem Post reports. After the structure was found, it was covered once again until almost a century later.
During ancient Roman times, the basilica was teeming with public life as Roman citizens met for business, social and legal matters. Additionally, people had the leisure of enjoying performances and religious ceremonies.
In 363 AD, however, the Romans abandoned the basilica after it was destroyed by an earthquake. According to archaeologists, they can notice the damages from the earthquake on the structure’s floors, which were made from marble imported from Asia Minor in merchant ships.
The site was later converted into an industrial area during the Islamic Abbasid and Fatimid periods, while some of the marble items were repurposed.
Upon completion of the restoration project at Tel Ashkelon National Park, the public will have access to enjoy the new archaeological finds.
“The Ashkelon National Park is one of the most important ancient sites, both in Israel and in the world, and time and time again it emerges as one of the most visited sites in the country,” said Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam in a statement. “I am convinced that the restoration and conservation work in the park, the new archaeological discoveries, and the development work – including new accessible paths – will contribute significantly to the park’s natural beauty and strengthen its status as the most beautiful and well-kept national park in Israel.”
Additional discoveries from the excavations include a Roman theater, sculptures and marble pillars.
Photo courtesy: ©Israel Antiquities Authority Facebook
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.