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2,000-year-old quarry found in West Bank with Christian symbols on walls

Reuters / June 22, 2009
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JERUSALEM - Israeli archeologists said yesterday they had discovered the largest underground quarry in the Holy Land, dating to the time of Jesus and containing Christian symbols etched into the walls.

The 43,056-square-foot cavern, buried 33 feet beneath the desert near the ancient West Bank city of Jericho, was dug about 2,000 years ago and was in use for about half a millennium, archeologist Adam Zertal said.

The cave’s main hall, about 10 feet tall, has a variety of symbols etched into the walls, including crosses dating to about AD 350 and Roman legionary emblems.

Zertal said his team from Haifa University discovered the site three months ago while they were putting together a detailed archeological map of the area.

“We saw a hole in the ground . . . and went down and discovered this giant cavern, originally a quarry, built uniquely with hall after hall,’’ Zertal told Reuters.

The team believes the stones were used in buildings and churches in the region, but Zertal said further research was necessary.

The site may eventually be turned into one of the largest underground tourist sites in the Holy Land, he said.