The ancient ruins of what is thought to be a Christian refuge or early church was discovered in Manbij, Syria, according to reports.
The ruins were found in territory that was previously under ISIS control after the group invaded the city in 2014.
Abdulwahab Sheko, head of the Exploration Committee at the Ruins Council in Manbij, had been studying the area and ruins. He said ISIS did not notice the area and dumped garbage on the empty mound of land near the ruins.
In 2016, after the Syrian Democratic Forces drove ISIS from Manbij, Sheko revealed his find.
“I was so excited. I can’t describe it. I was holding everything in my hands,” Sheko said of the discovery.
Crosses etched into the columns and walls mark the underground ruins. There are writings in the stone, and it’s thought that it was a place where persecuted Christians under the Roman Empire may have met.
“This place is so special. Here is where I think the security guard would stand at the gate watching for any movement outside,” Sheko said as he led reporters through the “first location” of the site. “He could warn the others to exit through the other passage if they needed to flee.”
American archaeologist John Wineland said this week on Fox News that the find could be helpful in understanding the lives of Christians living in the Roman Empire.
“They indicate that there was a significant Christian population in the area which felt they needed to hide their activities,” said Wineland, who is a professor of history and archaeology at Southeastern University. “This is probably an indication of the persecution by the Roman government, which was common in the period.”
Excavation of the site started in August 2017. It was delayed because of mines and booby traps in the area.
However, in March, many artifacts were uncovered and shown at a “festival” for locals.
Researchers have also found a “second location” of the ruins. This location includes an underground cave and multiple rooms. Sheko said he believes the second location was added when “Christianity was no longer a secret anymore.”
Publication date: May 2, 2018