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Byzantine-Era Tombstone Found in Israel

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Israel Nitzana InscriptionJERUSALEM, ISRAEL—According to a statement released by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a tombstone bearing a Greek inscription was discovered during trail maintenance work at Nitzana National Park, which is located in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. Leah Di Segni of Hebrew University said the inscription dates to the sixth or seventh century A.D., and refers to “Blessed Maria, who lived an immaculate life.” The inscription also states that Maria died on February ninth. Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the settlement at Nitzana was founded on a trade route in the third century A.D., and by the Byzantine period had a military fortress, churches, a monastery, and served as a stopping point for Christian pilgrims traveling to St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. Nitzana was eventually abandoned in the tenth century, she added. The discovery of the tombstone could help researchers define the boundaries of the ancient town. To read about another recent discovery in the Negev, go to "Alcohol Through the Ages: Desert Wine."

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