Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Archaeologists unearth rare ancient mosque in southern Israel

It is believed to be one of the earliest known rural mosques worldwide

Muslim workers of Israel's antiquities authority pray at the newly discovered remains of an ancient rural mosque, dating back to the era between the 7th and the 8th centuries, in the Israeli Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert on July 18, 2019. AFP
Muslim workers of Israel's antiquities authority pray at the newly discovered remains of an ancient rural mosque, dating back to the era between the 7th and the 8th centuries, in the Israeli Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert on July 18, 2019. AFP

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a rare ancient mosque in southern Israel's Negev desert, saying it was built around the time that Islam came to the land that today hosts Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The mosque, built around 1,200 years ago in either the seventh of eighth century AD, is believed to be one of the earliest known rural mosques in the world.

The mosque was found during construction work for a new building in the Bedouin town of Rahat, Israeli authorities said.

They said the remains were of an open-air rectangular mosque with a mihrab, or prayer niche, facing Mecca. There are large mosques known to be from that period in Jerusalem and in Mecca but it is rare to find a house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers, the antiquities authority said.

No similar building had been found in the area where it was discovered.

The Israeli authorities were "examining possible ways in which this special finding can be integrated into the new neighbourhood," it said.

"This is one of the earliest mosques known from the beginning of the arrival of Islam in Israel, after the Arab conquest of 636 C.E.," said Gideon Avni of the antiquities authority.

"The discovery of the village and the mosque in its vicinity are a significant contribution to the study of the history of the country during this turbulent period."

Other finds in the area were a small settlement from the early Islamic period, the authority said. The Muslim conquest of the region occurred in the first half of the seventh century.

Israeli authorities have also discovered a 9,000-year-old Neolithic site on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Updated: July 19, 2019 01:33 PM

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