IDF Soldiers Dig Up 1,500-Year-Old Nuns’ Convent in Military Zone
Dozens of Israeli soldiers re-excavated a 1,500-year-old nuns’ convent at Horbat Hani, after a small portion of the site was accidentally damaged during military activity, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.
The convent complex is located in a military zone near Shoham in central Israel. It was first unearthed by the IAA some 20 years ago, before being covered again for its protection.
Two buildings were identified at the time of its original excavation: One contained a church with a colorful mosaic floor showing animals and plants, as well as an entry hall, dormitories for the nuns, hermit quarters, a tower, a crypt, and a burial area underground.
“The other building included a kitchen, a refectory [dining hall], and an inn for pilgrims,” said the IAA’s Issy Kornfeld, who directed the recent re-excavation.
Evidence found at the Byzantine convent suggested that it “preserved a tradition related to women,” the IAA explained.
It may have marked the burial site of the biblical Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, according to IAA archeologist Dr. Eitan Klein. “As often in the ancient world, the convent was erected here, commemorating an ancient tradition, possibly of the burial place of Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel,” said Kornfeld. Some female skeletons were also uncovered during the initial excavation, potentially of women who wanted their remains to be close to those of Hannah.
After a small part of the site was damaged, the IAA launched an educational project that sought to re-open and clean it up with the help of the Israel Defense Forces.
“The soldiers and the officers enjoyed the hands-on archaeological work, and we hope that the joint activities protecting the archaeological sites will continue in the future,” said Guy Saly, director of the IDF’s Nature Defense Forces project.
The intersection of archeology and the military, added IAA chief Eli Eskosido, “further [consolidates] the strong connection between the defense of the State of Israel and the protection of the ancient sites and our cultural inheritance.”
The site is visible once again following its re-excavation, and can be viewed with advance permission.