A 1,500-year-old public building dating to the Byzantine Period has been found in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the northern Israeli city of Akko.

The building was found in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted approximately 100 meters west of Tel Akko, and it is believed that it may have been used as a church.

The large ashlar-built public building was found to have an abundance of roof tiles, parts of marble ornamentations, pottery, and coins, all of which point to a public structure that served the Bishop of Akko’s city in the Byzantine period. Terra cotta pipes survived below the wall levels and mosaic pavements adorned the floor in one of its rooms. The building’s inhabitants also had a readily available supply of water from a well that was situated in one of the courtyards of the building.

According to Nurit Feig, director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, “Until now, the city was known from Christian sources which mention its bishop who took part in formulating the new religion. Now, the first tangible evidence is emerging in the field.”

She added that “this is an important discovery for the study of Akko because until now no remains dating to the Byzantine period have been found, save those of a residential quarter situated near the sea.”

Early Christian sources mention the bishops of Akko and Caesarea who participated in major international conferences and meetings that dealt with formulating religious doctrine. This, along with evidence of an anonymous pilgrim from the city of Piacenza in Italy regarding the richness and splendor of the city in the year 570 CE in which he mentions the beautiful churches within its precincts, attest to the centrality of Akko for the Christian religion in this period.

In the past, IAA has also uncovered a treasure trove of some 350 rare pieces of marble, hoarded beneath an ancient cellar floor during an excavation conducted approximately 100 meters north of the Old City wall of Akko.

The unique find, which dates back to the Crusader period (the thirteenth century CE), is a collection of items that were gathered from buildings that had been destroyed.