1,200-year-old Islamic-period town found in Israel, but you will never see it
The find is unexpected because the area around the modern-day city of Modi’in was thought to have been sparsely populated during the early Islamic period, [...]
Even more interestingly, Nebi Zechariah may have been home to both Christian and Muslim communities. The archaeologists found crosses chiseled into the stones of the town’s olive presses and fragmentary Greek inscriptions, the written language commonly used by Christians in the region.
There is a longstanding debate amongst scholars over how violent and destructive the early Islamic occupation of the Holy Land was, and how problematic the relations between the various communities were.
Finds like Nebi Zechariah point to a relatively peaceful transition after Muslim armies seized the region from the Byzantine Empire in the first half of the 7th century, says Uzi Dahari, an archaeologist and former deputy director of the IAA.
“When the Muslims arrived, power changed hands but not much else happened, except for a slow process of conversion to Islam by part of the population, especially Christian Arabs and some Jews as well,” says Dahari, who was not involved in the dig at Nebi Zechariah.
Whoever the locals were, they certainly achieved a modicum of prosperity, given that Tendler’s team also unearthed jewelry and large homes with mosaic floors and arched ceilings. The large number of warehouses and workshops that produced oil, glass, wine and other commodities suggests that Nebi Zechariah served as an important farming and industrial center for Jerusalem and nearby Ramle, which was the provincial capital during the Caliphate, Tendler concludes.
One might think that the Israeli authorities would favor preserving Jewish sites over Christian or Muslim ones. But when it comes to salvage excavations, there seems to be little room to save sites linked to any particular group or time period, ...
But there is much less interest in saving sites from the early Islamic period like Nebi Zechariah. “In Beit Shemesh they found a layer from the 7th century B.C.E., from the First Temple period, so people are now saying ‘this is part of our history.’” Mizrahi notes. “In cases like Nebi Zechariah there is much less pressure: no one says ‘it’s part of our history’ – but it is very much part of our history as well.”