Christian Town Destroyed by Persians 1,400 Years Ago Found in Northern Israel

The remains of what was once a prosperous Christian town that was destroyed by Persian forces about 1,400 years ago have been uncovered in northern Israel, archaeologists say.

The Byzantine rural settlement of Pi Metzuba in the Western Galilee seems to have met its end in the early seventh century when Persia invaded the region as part of its broader conflict with the Byzantine Empire.

The highlight of the excavation was the discovery of a building marked with Christian symbols – that housed a high-quality mosaic decorated with floral, animal and human figures inspired by pagan iconography.

This and other treasures were unearthed in a salvage dig after the ruins of the Byzantine town were discovered during works to widen the road connecting the town of Shlomi and Kibbutz Hanita, just south of Israel’s border with Lebanon, researchers reported last week in Atiqot, a journal published by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

While the excavation was conducted in 2007, it took several years for experts to study and publish the finds from the Byzantine town, says Gilad Cinamon, the IAA archaeologist who headed the dig.

A rabbit (left) and a boar depicted among acanthus leaves in the border of the Pi Metzuba mosaicHoward Smithline on behalf of th

The site does appear in past archaeological surveys but hadn’t been thoroughly excavated before. It is not known from Byzantine sources but researchers believe it is the town of Pi Metzuba, which is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, the compendium of Jewish religious law compiled in the fourth-fifth century in the Galilee.

The name Metzuba or Metzub was preserved in Crusader, Mameluk and Ottoman settlements in the area, and is today carried on by the nearby Kibbutz Metzuba, Cinamon notes.