In a press briefing that was conducted today at the Israel Antiquity Authority’s excavations at Megiddo Prison, in the presence of the president of the state and representatives of the Christian communities in Israel, Shuka Dorfman, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the Authority recommends transferring Megiddo Prison from its present location and allowing the archaeological complex to be displayed in its entirety. “We are dealing with a unique and one-of-a-kind discovery that has excited the entire Christian world”, he said, and added the importance of the site, which dates to the third century CE, is based among other things on the presence of a Roman army camp alongside a Christian prayer hall, an ancient Jewish settlement and pagan evidence. Any step that will separate the mosaic from its location will detract from the cultural value which the site represents”.
President Moshe Katzav praised the Israel Antiquities Authority for the archaeological discovery, which was uncovered in cooperation with the Prison Service, and said the discovery emphasizes the importance of the place for human culture and the cultural heritage of the Land of Israel. The President also said that in certain places in the world entire sites are moved from their locations in order to display ancient finds such as these, and that he stands behind the Israel Antiquities Authority in whatever decision it will reach in this matter.
Yotam Tepper, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, reported that the excavation finds greatly contribute to the study of the Roman army in the Eastern Roman Empire, Christian theology, the status of Christianity prior to the Byzantine period, and the cultural relations with the ancient Jewish settlement nearby.
In the excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Megiddo Prison, a building was exposed which, based on the archaeological finds, dates to the 3rd century CE. In the building is a rectangular hall with a mosaic floor decorated with geometric designs, as well as a medallion, fish and three ancient Greek inscriptions. One inscription memorializes a Roman military officer who donated the mosaic; the second inscription commemorates four women and the third inscription salutes a woman who dedicated a table (altar) to the Lord, Jesus Christ. All of these are associated with the religious worship practiced by the Christian community in the building. The combination of the three mosaic inscriptions from the 3rd century, which connects a Roman military officer with Christianity in a building prior to the recognition of Christianity as an official religion, is especially rare and extremely important to understanding Christianity in this early period, about which so little is known to date.
World renowned experts, consulted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, scientifically validated the importance of these finds, even though the research is still in its preliminary stages.