1500-year-old building discovered at Acre

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a 1500 year old building in the historic city of Acre (also known as Akko). The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the find earlier this month, which they believe may have been a Byzantine church.

According to Nurit Feig, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Until now, the city was known from Christian sources which mention its bishop who took part in formulating the new religion. Now, the first tangible evidence is emerging in the field. This is an important discovery for the study of Acre because until now no remains dating to the Byzantine period have been found, save those of a residential quarter situated near the sea.”

A large ashlar-built public edifice was uncovered in the excavation. The size of the building, the impressive construction, as well as the finds – an abundance of roof tiles, parts of marble ornamentation, the pottery and coins – all point to a public structure (possibly a church) that served the Bishop of Acre’s city in the Byzantine period. Terra cotta pipes survived below the wall levels and mosaic pavements adorned the floor in one of its rooms. The building’s inhabitants had a readily available supply of water from a well that was situated in one of the courtyards of the building.

The early Christian sources mention the bishops of Acre and Caesarea who participated in major international conferences and meetings that dealt with formulating religious doctrine, thus attesting to the centrality of Acre for the Christian religion in this period. Moreover, an anonymous pilgrim from the city of Piacenza in Italy wrote about the richness and splendor of the city in the year 570 CE, in which he mentions the beautiful churches within its precincts.

Acre experienced several sieges and fighting between Crusaders and Islamic forces during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. After its fall in 1291 to the Mamluks the city was largely left in ruins, and few Byzantine remains have been found so far.

Earlier structures that date to the Hellenistic period were exposed beneath the foundations of the Byzantine public building. Their contents were rich and diverse and included imported pottery vessels from the Mediterranean basin, among them amphorae from the Isle of Rhodes, as indicated by the handles that bear the governors’ names.

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority

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