An Ancient Mosque in Northern Israel May Be the Oldest Unearthed Anywhere

January 26, 2021 | Times of Israel
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In the years after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the city of Tiberias emerged as a center of Jewish life and learning, and remained so into the early Islamic period. It also experienced a renaissance of Jewish life under Ottoman rule. Now, after eleven years of painstaking excavations of one of the city’s ancient mosques, a team of archaeologists led by Katia Cytryn-Silverman has discovered an even older mosque beneath it, likely built in the 7th century. The Times of Israel reports:

Cytryn-Silverman, of the Hebrew University, said it is the oldest mosque in the world that can be excavated. Other ancient mosques are either still being used or have had other mosques built on top of them, hindering research. It has [thus] been difficult to know exactly what the original buildings looked like.

A clue to when the older mosque was built came from earth used as filling in the foundation, which was brought in from elsewhere. By consulting with an archaeologist in Yemen, Cytryn-Silverman was further convinced that “the construction technology used at the ancient mosque, a simple and pragmatic style uncharacteristic of the region, apparently first came to Israel at the start of the Arab conquest in the 7th century.” She said the technology itself may have originated in the Arabian Peninsula.

Following the Arab conquests of the region, . . . Tiberias became the capital of Jund al-Urdun, the Jordanian military district, making it a political and economic center. The site is close to the remains of a Byzantine church that was in use from the 5th to the 10th centuries, and which archaeologists say was the largest in the Galilee. They believe a large synagogue may have stood alongside it.

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