A lost Jewish city has been discovered by archaeologists hidden underneath an Israeli Defence Force training base, according to Tel Aviv daily Yedioth Aharanot. Archaeologists working for the IDF’s Civil administration were digging under the old parade grounds of a disused training center near the town of Beit El in  Samaria (West Bank) when they made the surprising find. The excavations uncovered a Jewish settlement dating back to the First Temple period of Israel’s history (960-568 BCE) which is thought to have changed hands many times, according to the signs.

The city was still inhabited when the ancient Israeli Kingdom of Judah fell under the control of the Persians in 539 BCE. Later, the settlement expanded during the Hellenistic Period – which began when Alexander the Great absorbed much of what is now Israel into his vast empire. Subsequently, it came under the control of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty. And later Samaria fell into the hands of the Romans. The city was then abandoned for many years. But then the area was resettled in the Byzantine period by a Christian population, which included monks who built a monastery there.

“The findings are amazing,” said Yevgeny Aharonovitch, an archaeologist with the Civil Administration. “We found keys for doors that were intended for housing units, we found tools that were used by Jews, and seal types belonging to the [Jewish] period.”

It is thought the Byzantine settlement continued to exist until the 7th Century when the Christians were expelled and replaced by Muslim invaders. Remains from the Byzantine period include large numbers of containers that were used for trading olive oil. Archaeologists believe that the settlement was probably destroyed in a great earthquake near the end of the 8th Century AD. The city faded out of history for centuries until recent days.

Source: Aristos Georgiou, International Business Times