Money runs out for excavating oldest church

The Christian altar found at the Megiddo Prison dates to the third of fourth century CE.

The tourist development venture at a Christian altar found at the Megiddo Prison, considered the world’s oldest church dating to the third of fourth century CE, has been halted because of a lack of money. The Israel Antiquities Authority financed the excavations and preservation of the site for years, but says it can no longer bear the cost.

Since the relevant authorities have not allocated the necessary resources to dedicate the site and develop it into a global tourist attraction, the Antiquities Authority has had to cover the ruins with sand and a tarpaulin in order to preserve them. The purpose is to prevent natural or human-induced damage to the uncovered mosaic. The decision is reversible, and if and when money is found to continue development of the site, the Antiquities Authority can continue activity at the dig to prepare it for visitors.

The discovery of the ruins within the prison last year caused a global sensation. The discoveries included the oldest mention of Jesus in Israel. When the pope announced his intention to visit the site, it raised great hopes of turning the site into a global tourist attraction, but it appears that these plans have been literally buried, at least for the time being.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on September 17, 2006

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006

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