The Israel Antiquities Authority has had a breakthrough discovery, unearthing a public structure from the time of the Byzantine Empire in the northern Israeli city of Acre [Akko].
The structure is about 1,500 years-old and it is believed to have served as a church. The structure was uncovered during a rescue excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority following an unauthorized dig in the area that uncovered the structure.
The excavation was done approximately 100 meters west of a mound located in the eastern part of Acre, close to the area in which the future Azrieli shopping mall is being built.
Nurit Page, head of the excavations in the area under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the city’s bishop was known in Christian scriptures as someone who was extremely influential in the development of Christianity as a religion.
This discovery is the first concrete proof of Acre’s role in early Christianity. “This is an important discovery for the study of Acre,” Page said, adding that it is of particular significance “considering no remnants from the Byzantine Period had been found other than living quarters near the [Mediterranean] sea.”
The full story is here. An IAA press release sent along by Joseph Lauer quotes the archaeologist as being less certain of the building’s identification: “It may possibly be a church. This is the first time that remains of a public building from this period have been uncovered in Akko.”
UPDATE (6/14): The Jerusalem Post is now reporting the discovery.