Israel’s earliest soap factory, dating back approximately 1,200 years, has been uncovered in the Bedouin city of Rahat, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported on Sunday.

According to the report, hundreds of local youths were involved in the IAA dig, whose purpose was to re-establish the connection between the community and the history of the area.

“This is the first time that a soap workshop as ancient as this has been discovered, allowing us to recreate the traditional production process of the soap industry,” said IAA excavation director Elena Kogen Zehavi. “For this reason, it is quite unique. We are familiar with important soap-making centers from a much later period—the Ottoman period. These were discovered in Jerusalem, Nablus, Jaffa and Gaza.”

Rahat Mayor Fahiz Abu Saheeben said that the excavation had revealed the city’s “Islamic roots.”

“We are proud of the excavation and happy that it took place in cooperation with the local community,” he said. “We enjoy good relations with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Authority for Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev, and we hope to construct a visitors’ center that tourists and the local community will be able to enjoy.”

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