The remains of a 1,300-year-old church featuring fine mosaic floors were uncovered in the village of Kfar Kama in the Lower Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.“The church, measuring 12 × 36 m., includes a large courtyard, a narthex foyer and a central hall,” IAA archaeologist Nurit Feig said in a press release. “This church presented three apses [prayer niches], The nave and the aisles were paved with mosaics which partially survived. Their colorful decoration stands out, incorporating geometric patterns, and blue, black, and red floral patterns. A special discovery was the small reliquary, a stone box used to preserve sacred relics.”
The church was first found during the excavation ahead of the construction of a playground in the village at the initiative of the Kfar Kama Local Council and the Jewish National Fund.Another church, dating back to the 6th century, was discovered in the town, a Circassian center, in the 1960s.“This was probably the village church, whilst the church now discovered was probably part of a contemporary monastery on the outskirts of the village,” said Prof. Moti Aviam of the Kinneret Academic College, who collaborated in the excavation.The researchers also uncovered several rooms adjacent to the church and additional chambers yet to be excavated were revealed by a ground-penetrating radar inspection operated by Dr. Shani Libbi.Aviam is one of the heads of a wide-ranging research project on Christian settlements in the Galilee carried out in cooperation between the Kinneret Academic College and the Kinneret Institute of Galilean Archaeology, represented by Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi.
The new discovery might offer insights on the possible important role of the ancient Christian village that existed in the area during the Byzantine period, whose stones were used by the Circassian Shapsug tribe when they established their village in 1876. The proximity of the center to Mount Tabor, an important site in the Christian tradition, supports the theory.After the discovery of the ancient church, the Catholic Archbishop Dr. Youssef Matta, Head of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, personally visited the site.