The archaeological site at the Megiddo Police hill is identified as the Jewish village Kfar Othnai, mentioned in written sources. The camp of the Roman Legion VI Ferrata and a city named Maximianopolis, mentioned in historical sources, were erected next to it.
The Roman Period site represents a rare cultural grouping of Village-Camp-City in a limited geographical space, which is located near the biblical Tel Megiddo that is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeological excavations at the Megiddo Prison revealed a building dated to the third century CE, based on the archaeological finds both below and above its floors.
The building has a rectangular hall with a mosaic floor bearing geometric patterns, a medallion decorated with drawings of fish, and three Greek inscriptions. One inscription mentions an army officer who contributed toward the paving of the floor. The second inscription is dedicated to the memory of four women, and the third inscription mentions a woman who contributed a table (altar) to the God Jesus Christ. All the inscriptions are related to Christian community ritual activities that took place in the building.
The incorporation of the three inscriptions in the third century CE mosaic floor, that link a Roman army officer to Christianity in a building that dates prior to the recognition of Christianity as an official religion, is rare and unique and very important toward the understanding of early Christianity.
Yotam Tepper, the IAA excavation's director, reports that findings of the excavation are significant for research of the Roman Army in the Eastern Roman Empire, for theological-Christian issues including the formation of Christian ritual and its place before the Byzantine period, and of mutual cultural influence in light of the close proximity to the earlier Jewish community at the site.
A consultation with top experts, initiated by the Antiquities Authority, has given scientific validation to the importance of the findings from this excavation, despite that the research is only in its initial stages.
The Antiquities Authority recommends moving the prison and places utmost importance on preservation of the archeological assemblage uncovered in the excavations. This preference stems from the magnitude of these finds and their significance for culture and heritage not only of Israel, but for the entire world, and will enable the preservation and display of the site and the mosaic floor, in their original context, integrated with their environs.
The work of the Israel Antiquities Authority is both universal in preserving the heritage of all humankind and the historic record of human culture in the world of Israel, and at the same time uniquely significant to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
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