ROSH HA'AYIN, Israel – Israel's growing construction sites have uncovered some ancient treasures in unlikely places.
Before any construction work begins, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducts what it calls a salvage excavation. In Israel's central plains, a building boom dots the skyline with cranes in places like Rosh Ha'ayin.
"We started digging here and we didn't know what we are going find," excavation director Amit Shadman told CBN News. "But after three months we exposed a pretty nice and large monastery."
The discovery of many impressive rural churches and monasteries in the area show that Christianity spread rapidly around the fifth century.
The Byzantine church is paved with a colorful mosaic, but Shadman says the most important find is the Greek inscription at the entrance.
"It's exactly the same as it is today," he explained. "People want to know that they gave the money, and you have to understand that it's very expensive to build a complex like this."
The inscription reads, "This place was built under Theodosius, the priest. Peace be with you when you come. Peace be with you when you go. Amen." It's the equivalent of a donors' plaque in a modern building.
Up to 30 monks would have lived at the compound. Shadman believes they were also farmers.
Archaeologists uncovered living quarters, stables and an olive oil press, which he says would not have been built without the help of the church.
"The main thing of this monastery is to take care of the rural area," Shadman said.
The IAA team also uncovered an even older structure nearby: a 2,700-year-old farm house.
"This area from the beginning was used for farming and for agriculture," Shadman continued.
Sometimes archaeologists must move the antiquities and they often rebury them. But this ancient monastery and farmstead are slated to become part of a park.
"I can tell you that this site, we're not going to destroy it," Shadman said. "We will plan to keep it and leave it like a green area."