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El Araj Season 4: Day One, Week Two (Week 4)

Achiya Cohen-Tavor describes the Byzantine frieze with the bottom portion of the cross and floral design.

Today begins the final week of our excavation season. We have experienced fantastic results that will soon be published. If you have been following this blog, then you have some sense of the direction we are going. This morning we returned to our squares to begin one last push. Sunya and Kathryn are finishing the mosaic floor discovered last week. They discovered that their square is divided in two parts, separated by a stylobate (a continuous base supporting a row of columns). On one side (south) of the stylobate the mosaic resembles that found in the adjoining square in the previous week. But on the northern side of their square the style of the mosaic has suddenly changed to smaller tesserae (the stone cubes used to make the mosaic) and most amazingly in multiple colors. Until now all of our mosaics have been bi-chrome (black and white). This signals that we are entering into a more important, more central part of the Byzantine church. In an adjoining square next (south) to Sunya and Kathryn, Tom Blackwell and Jim Johnson are quickly approaching a mosaic floor that should be uncovered tomorrow. To the east of Sunya and Kathryn's square we are busily working to excavate down to the level of the adjoining mosaics. It will be a difficult task and take lots of work. I have taken a "before" picture with Christopher and Ethan Knappstanding in the square. I will include an "after" picture from Wednesday's dig day. The final week of the dig usually means a steady stream of visitors and interviews. Today we were honored to have Lord and Lady Robert Edmiston from the UK who have generously supported the dig the last two years. Support for this excavation each year has come through the generosity of private individuals through the auspices of The Center for Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. Later in the morning there were two remarkable finds. A limestone frieze that decorated a window or door. Only the lower portion of the frieze remains, but what is clear that it is the bottom leg of a cross next to a floral relief. The complete frieze originally was shaped in an octagon. Finally at the end of the day, Sunya found a small glass tessera that was gilded in gold. These are very rare, but we have found a few each season. They were only used in richly adorned churches. The frieze and the glass tesserae encourage us that we are indeed unearthing the lost Byzantine church of the Apostles, built over the house of Peter and Andrew.

Squares A6 and B6 as we begin the final week of the excavation.

Tom and JIm digging down to the Byzantine mosaics

Sunya and Kathryn entering their square with the mosaic floor.

Motti Aviam speaks with Lord and Lady Edmiston.

Achiya Cohen-Tavor speaks about the finds from the El Araj Excavation to Lord and Lady Edmiston and their family.

The Edmistons watch Sunya and Kathryn at work.

The mosaics have changed to smaller tesserae and in color.

Gold gilded glass tessera.

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