‘Impressive’ remains of Byzantine monastery unearthed near Jerusalem

The site of the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological dig near Beit Shemesh that revealed an “impressive” monastery. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

(JNS.org) Israeli archaeologists said they unearthed an “impressive” monastery that produced industrial-sized outputs of olive oil and wine in the foothills south of the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem. 

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), during a survey of cisterns found in the area, archaeologists came across a cave opening and the tops of several walls. After the excavation, they found a large compound that was divided into two regions—industrial and residential areas. In the industrial area, remarkably well-preserved olive and wine presses were discovered, and in the residential area a colorful mosaic adorned with grapes and flowers was found.

While a church has not yet been found by the archaeologists, all the evidence seems to indicate that the compound was inhabited by monks who made a living from producing olive oil and wine on an industrial scale. 

“The impressive construction, the dating to the Byzantine period, the magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries,” said Irina Zilberbod, an IAA archaeologist.

“It is possible to reconstruct a scenario in which monks resided in a monastery that they established, made their living from the agricultural installations and dwelled in the rooms and carried out their religious activities,” she said.

According to the archaeologists, the monastery closed around the beginning of the Islamic period in the 7th century CE. 

Posted on September 18, 2014 .