A 1,500-year-old Christian church filled with artifacts from the Byzantine era was discovered by road workers expanding Israel's main highway that connects Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The church includes a four-leafed clover shaped baptismal font. Fragments of red-colored plaster, which indicate that the sanctuary walls had been decorated with frescoes, were also uncovered, according to Israel Antiquities Authority.
The centuries-old sanctuary was discovered at a Byzantine period rest stop on a road said to be from the Roman period.
"Along this road, which was apparently already established in the Roman period, other settlements and road stations have previously been discovered that served those traveling the route in ancient times," said Annette Nagar, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Rooms that were most likely used as dwelling quarters are located next to the church. The sanctuary features a white mosaic floor and a side chapel 21 feet long and 11 feet wide.
Various artifacts including oil lamps, special glass vessels and marble fragments were found at the site along with a water source – the 'Ain Naqa'a seep spring. Experts say the artifacts point to the site seeing intense activity.
"The road station and its church were built in the Byzantine period beside the ancient road leading between Jerusalem and the coastal plain," said Nagar. "This road station ceased to be used at the end of the Byzantine period, although the road beside it ... continued to be in use until modern times."
Pablo Betzer, Israel Antiquities Authority's district archaeologist for Judah, confirmed that the findings have been documented and will be studied.
He also stated that the road station and church remnants will be covered in order to preserve them for future generations.