The church, which was used between the 5th and 7th century A.D., is on top of another structure that is 500 years older. The rock underneath has been carved into a network of tunnels that archaeologists believe were used by Jewish rebels during the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132 A.D. against the Roman empire.
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Beneath the altar the archaeologists found a burial chamber that they believe to be even older: it may be the 6th-century B.C. tomb of Zechariah, a biblical prophet from the time of Darius the Great. While further study is needed, researchers point to Christian writings and an ancient church mosaic showing the Holy Land as indications that this is Zechariah’s final resting place, and believe that the church was built around this ancient pilgrimage site. Coins, lamps, and pottery were also discovered.
Ganor told the Daily Mail that “it’s been years since we’ve made a find like this.” As for the looters he was tracking, they got away that time, but were later apprehended at a nearby site.