The remains of an ancient synagogue have been revealed in an archeological dig in Turkey.
The ruins, estimated to be at least 1,500 years old, were unearthed by a team of archeologists from Akdeniz University in September and new artifacts are being discovered daily.
Among those discovered on the site is a marble tablet featuring a menorah flanked by a shofar and a bugle on one side and a palm tree and lemon tree on the other.
Site chief Dr. Nevzat Cevik, an archeology professor at Akdeniz University, told the Anatolia news agency that his team believes the temple is from around the third century.
The ancient temple was found in the town of Demre in the Antalya province, on the southwestern tip of Turkey. The structure is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Andriake harbor. The dimensions of the main room are 7.25 meters by 5.08 meters.
The building has two entrances, one in the west and one in the north. Researchers believe that the presence of Jews at this site, which was once a major port city called Myra, means that Jews were established traders at the time.
Myra was the capital of the Lycian civilization. Other archeological digs in the region revealed Roman theater and bath-houses and two large necropoli. The find is the first archeological trace of Jewish culture to be found in Lycia.
"Located on a choice spot facing the sea, the temple was likely built following a law instituted in 212 that allowed Jews the right to become Roman citizens," said Cevik. "When we first discovered the temple, we weren't sure what it was, but after continuing to dig, the archeological findings and particularly the first-quality marble slabs that we found, were evidence for us that they were part of a Jewish temple."
Researchers also found inscriptions carved into the tablets. The carvings haven't been deciphered fully yet, but the words "Israel" and "Amen" have been recognized as well as the names of the temple's dedicators: Prokles and Romanus.
No Jews live in Demre today, but Turkish Tourism Ministry officials believe that the uncovered synagogue will be a draw for the many Israelis who visit Turkey. Other ancient synagogue ruins have been found in Sardis, Miletus, Priene and Phocee, dating from 220 BCE.