Dig reveals Acre’s importance to early Christianity

A 1,500-year-old building from the Byzantine period was discovered in Acre during construction of an uncompleted shopping mall parking lot.

June 14, 2011 04:51
1 minute read.
A 1,500-year-old building of the Byzantine period

Acre Byzantine church 311. (photo credit: Skyview, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)

A 1,500-year-old building from the Byzantine period was discovered in Acre during construction of an uncompleted Azrieli Group-owned shopping mall parking lot, about 100 meters west of the Tel Akko archeological dig.

The remains were covered with sand and a special textile for preservation on Monday morning. The Antiquities Authority believes the building was likely a church, due to its size and the artifacts found inside, but the structure will not be available for public viewing.

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The parking lot will cover some of the remains, and a fence will be constructed around the uncovered portion. A sign with more information about the site will be erected next to the fence, said Israel Ben-Ezra, an adviser to Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri.

Antiquities Authority excavators discovered pottery, coins, roof tiles and a floor mosaic.

One of the ashlar-constructed edifice’s courtyards had a well, and terracotta pipes (old plumbing apparatuses) were uncovered in the building’s foundation.

The church’s discovery adds weight to Acre’s importance as an early Christian center.

Christian sources recorded attendance by the bishops of Acre and Caesarea at international congresses, which helped establish Christian religious doctrine, said Nurit Feig, the Antiquities Authority archeologist and researcher who directed the excavation.

In addition, the Vatican’s archives hold writings by an unnamed Christian pilgrim from Piacenza, Italy who visited Acre in 570 CE and described the city’s churches, she said.

No other Byzantine-era public buildings have been discovered in Acre. The remains of a residential quarter from that period were unearthed near the old city almost three years ago.

The remains of older buildings and pottery from the Hellenistic period, including amphorae from Rhodes and locally made pieces, were uncovered below the newly excavated Byzantine structure.

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