"The church probably served as a center of Christian worship for the neighboring communities," the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a news release about the find, issued Wednesday. The floor and other remains of the basilica were found over the past three months during preparations for the construction of a new neighborhood at Moshav Aluma, the agency said.
The church was part of a major Byzantine settlement located next to the main road running between Ashkelon on Israel's Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem to the east. Previous excavations along the road had found traces of other communities from the same period, but no churches.
The mosaic that was in the church's main hall features 40 decorative medallions. Some of the medallions depict animals including a zebra, a leopard, a turtle, a wild boar and various types of birds. Three medallions contain Greek inscriptions that commemorate two church leaders named Demetrios and Herakles.
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