An immaculately preserved mosaic created by Christians living in Israel 1,500 years ago has been uncovered by archaeologists. The tessellated tile work includes a four line inscription in Greek, commemorating the builder of the monastery in which it is contained
It also includes the date of its construction according to the Georgian calendar, the first
evidence of its use in Israel, which corresponds with 539 AD. The find was made in the coastal city of Ashdod by a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Leipzig University.
The ancient city of Ashdod-Yam was in the southern part of the modern city and was one of the most important areas of Israel in the Byzantine period. This is the third season of excavations being held in the region, and footage of the dig has been released by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The inscription uncovered on the mosaic reads: ‘By the grace of God (or Jesus), this work was done from the foundation under Procopius, our most saintly and most holy bishop, in the month Dios of the 3rd indiction, year 292.’
Dr Leah Di Segni, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: ‘This is the earliest appearance of the use of the Georgian counted in Israel, many years before it is used in Georgia itself.’
Ashdod is believed to be home to the largest community of Jews of Georgian origin in the world. According to historical
sources, the famous Georgian prince and bishop Peter the Iberian lived in Ashdod-Yam before his death. The Georgian calendar is the ancient calendar of the country Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, although remnants remain until this day.
Though Georgia now uses the modern Gregorian calendar, the old names for the months are still used. IAA archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor told The Jerusalem Post:
‘Testimony to the presence of the actual Georgians in the Land of Israel as far back as the Byzantine period has been found dozens of kilometers from Ashdod, [as well as in] Jerusalem and its surroundings.
‘But this is the first time that a Georgian church or monastery has been discovered on the Israeli coast.
‘It’s interesting that, like today, Ashdod was a focus of attraction for Georgians.’
This public structure, which has only now begun to come to light, is part of an extensive archeological complex in the southern part of modern Ashdod. The IAA is now raising funds to continue excavation of the area.