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On the Trail of Artifact Plunderers, Archeologists May Have Uncovered the Prophet Zehariah's Tomb – ARTINFO.com

ERUSALEM— Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authorityspends as much time chasing down looters and tracking stolen antiquities as he does working on archeological digs. Recently, however, his two professional activities dovetailed: while pursuing a band of thieves, Ganor and his colleagues saw what looked like a doorpost protruding from the ground. It turned out to be a Byzantine church that was destroyed by an earthquake 1,300 years ago, and beneath it lies an ancient tomb that may have belonged to the prophet Zechariah.
Located about 25 miles south of Jerusalem in Hirbet Madras, the site is about the size of a basketball court and contains a remarkably well-preserved mosaic floor that was over 30 feet long,the Daily Mail reports. The floral and geometrical patterns and the images of lions, foxes, lambs, fish, and birds will be visible only until next week before being covered with soil again for their own protection. The Antiquities Authority hopes to make them available for visits by the public in the future.

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.

On the Trail of Artifact Plunderers, Archeologists May Have Uncovered the Prophet Zehariah’s Tomb – ARTINFO.com.

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