In Nazareth Jesus grew up, received his divine face according to the Gospels on Mount Tabor, a few kilometers to the east, and centuries later, large parts of Galilee were to become Christianized. Researchers suspect around a hundred Byzantine-era churches in this part of today’s Israel. Galilee has been plowed through for centuries and its base is so full of sacral artifacts that the Israeli antique agency has the ground searched before almost every new building project.

Jochen Stahnke

Jochen Stahnke

Political correspondent for Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, based in Tel Aviv.

Archaeologists have now found the remains of another church while exploring the construction of a children’s playground on a hill in the small town of Kfar Kama. According to the leading archaeologist Nurit Feig, it is a building from the sixth or seventh century, a time when many churches were built in the Galilee. But churches were rare at the foot of the Tabor, says Feig. The diameter of the floor plan of twelve and 36 meters indicates a medium-sized building. The three apses and the partially well-preserved floor mosaic are remarkable. A stone relic chest turned out to be empty. Scientists had discovered a similar chest with human bones in a church uncovered in Kfar Kama in the 1960s.

The church complex now found seems to be larger. Investigations with ground radar indicate other rooms. The researchers suspect that it was a monastery on the edge of a village, whose old name is no longer known. Feig suspects that the church was abandoned soon after its construction, because no other settlement took its place: the archaeologists did not find artifacts from other eras. Nevertheless, the time of leaving basically coincides with the arrival of the Umayyads in the area, as early Islamic relics found not far from Kfar Kama show.

Is the excavation site connected to a playground?

After their discovery and research, the mosaics may soon be buried again with earth. Because according to the current planning, the new children’s playground should continue to be built above them. Feig suggests preserving the archaeological site and connecting it to the playground. Today, Muslim Cherkesses mainly from the Caucasus live in the area. They came to Kfar Kama, one of two Circassian places in Israel today, at the end of the nineteenth century.