Archaeological Sites in Israel-Sites of Christian significance
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 Archaeological Sites in Israel-Sites of Christian significance


Archaeological Sites in Israel
Special Millennium Issue
Sites of Christian Significance
by Hillel Geva


This special Millennium issue includes sites of Christian significance, some of which have been published in former issues of Archeological Sites in Israel (see Cumulative Table of Contents).

Recent Archeological Discoveries

Jerusalem The Tomb of a Chained Anchorite

On a hill near the Jerusalem-Bethlehem road, a subterranean complex of cells dating to the Byzantine period was uncovered in 1991. It was composed of a stepped entryway leading to an antechamber lined with masonry and containing eight rectangular niches, probably used for storing personal effects and books. The innermost cell (1.75 x 0.85m, 1.70 m. high) was also partly lined with masonry and had small niches with a ceramic bowl in each; a lamp-holder was suspended from the ceiling.

On the floor lay the skeleton of a 24-26 year-old ascetic; it was on its side, the legs bent sideways, and an iron chain wound four times around the pelvis and back and over the shoulders. The chain, with a total length of six meters, weighs six kilograms and is made of 50 mm.-long links.

The skeleton is that of a Christian recluse who chose to live as an anchorite in this subterranean cell. The wearing of heavy chains was an accepted way of mortifying the flesh, to prevent impure thoughts and ensure celibacy. The anchorites secluded habitation became his burial chamber and a round memorial structure, 9.4 m. in diameter, was later erected above it.

Tiberias A Hoard of Metal Objects, including Rare "Jesus coins"

Three large pottery jars from the Fatimid period (10th-11th century) were uncovered in 1998 during excavations at the southern end of ancient Tiberias. The jars, hidden under the floor of a building, contained some 1,000 artifacts, mainly of bronze, in an excellent state of preservation: candlesticks, bowls, cups, ewers, bottles, small boxes, incense burners, oil lamps, bells, small sculpted birds and snakes, and coins. The objects were made in a variety of casting and hammering techniques, and some bear intricate punched and engraved decorations and Arabic inscriptions.

The 82 bronze coins are of the anonymous folles type, meaning that they do not bear the image or name of the contemporary ruler, a relatively rare phenomenon. Fifty-eight of them bear the likeness of Jesus, some with Greek inscriptions, such as "Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings" and "Jesus, the Messiah, the Victor."

This is the largest assemblage of metal artifacts and of "Jesus Coins" found to date in Israel. It is assumed that the treasure belonged to a Christian merchant or metalsmith. The reason why it was hidden is not known, but was probably related to the advance of the Crusaders, who conquered Tiberias in 1099.


  1. Akko - The Maritime Capital of the Crusader Kingdom
  2. Bethsaida - An Ancient Fishing Village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
  3. Tabgha - Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes
  4. The Roman Boat from the Sea of Galilee
  5. Kursi - Christian Monastery on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
  6. Tiberias - The Anchor Church
  7. Belvoir - A Crusader Fortress overlooking the Jordan Valley
  8. Caesarea - from Roman City to Crusader Fortress
  9. The Monastery of Martyrius
  10. Jerusalem - The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
  11. Jerusalem - The Nea Church and the Cardo
  12. The Church of the Seat of Mary (Kathisma)
  13. Byzantine Churches in the Negev

  14. Cumulative table of contents - Archeological Sites in Israel


Israel Information Center, Jerusalem
December 1999
No. 5

Hillel Geva studied archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, participated in excavations in the Jewish Quarter and the Citadel in Jerusalem, and is author of the entry "Jerusalem" in the New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land and editor of Ancient Jerusalem Revealed.

Photographs courtesy of:

R. Arav: 12, 13, 14
Benedictine Monastery Tabgha: 16, 17
H. Geva: 40
Y. Hirschfeld: 23
E. Linder: 7 (left)
Y. Magen/Israel Antiquities Authority: 34, 35
V. Tzaferis/Israel Antiquities Authority: 21
Yigal Alon Museum, Kibbutz Ginosar/S.Zisso: 19


W. Braun: 26
B. Gian: 32 (right), 46
Israel Antiquities Authority: Cover, 9, 29
Y. Loeff: 31, 43
Mifalot Yefei Nof /S.Ginott: 25
R. Nowitz: 28, 30
Z. Radovan: 7 (right), 8, 32 (left), 38, 39, 41, 45, 47, 48

Photographs of finds and artifacts published with permission of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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