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From prison yard to holy ground

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12:18pm, November 9, 2005
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Archaeological excavations at a prison near Megiddo, Israel, have uncovered remains of what may have been one of the region's oldest Christian churches. The mosaic floor of the 6-meter-by-9-m structure, uncovered in the past 2 weeks, bears Greek inscriptions and a medallion decorated with drawings of fish, an ancient Christian symbol.

The style of letters, the wording of the inscriptions, and other features date the floor to the 3rd or 4th century A.D., says Yotam Tepper of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. "It's an extraordinary find if it's third century," says religion scholar Eric M. Meyers of Duke University in Durham, N.C. However, he adds that it's extremely unlikely that a major Christian church existed in the area before Roman Emperor Constantine legalized the fledgling religion in A.D. 313.

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