|PIC1|The site was discovered by prisoners who were digging for possible artefacts in preparation for the construction of a new security wing.
The ruins include mosaic floors with inscriptions in ancient Greek referring to “The God Jesus Christ” and one featuring the early Christian image of two fish, with archaeologists estimating the date of the site to be somewhere in the mid-third to fourth century.
“This is one of the most important finds of early Christianity,” archaeologist Yardena Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities told journalists on a tour of the excavation on Sunday, reports Reuters.
Yotam Tepper, who heads the excavation, told journalists: “This is, in Israel for sure, the earliest church.”
Mr Tepper told Israel’s Channel Two television that the discovery could help shed new light on an important period of Christianity, which was banned by the Romans until the fourth century, reports the BBC.
|QUOTE|“Normally we have from this period in our region historical evidence from literature, not archaeological evidence,” he said. “There is no structure you can compare it to; it is a very unique find.”
One inscription on the floor makes reference to a Roman soldier who helped to pay for the mosaics, while another dedicates a table to Jesus Christ. Archaeologists suspect the Megiddo church was built to serve a local Christian community during a quiet period in the persecution often meted out to Christians in the Roman Empire.
“What is important about this find (at Megiddo) is it is in a transitional period. It is the very beginning of churches. There was not standard plan of a church,” said Yardena Alexandre.
According to Reuters, no decision has been made by the prison on what to do with the site.