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The stone, which dates to the late 6th and early 7th centuries, bears the inscription "Blessed Mary, who lived an immaculate life" and died on February 9. The inscription was deciphered by Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University.

A stone with a Greek inscription from the end of the Byzantine period was discovered last weekend in the confines of Nitzana National Park in the Negev. The flat and round stone, 25 cm in diameter, was used as a tombstone in one of the cemeteries that surrounded the old settlement. The stone was found by an employee of the Israel Nature Reserves and Parks Authority "Project 500" while cleaning and preparing nature trails in Nitzana National Park. The stone was left at the head of the road when it was found by David Palmach, director of the Nitzana Educational Village, who realized that it bore an inscription. Palmach photographed it and collected it to prevent it from being looted. He also contacted the Israel Nature Reserves and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The registration is being transferred to the National Treasury Department.

The inscription was deciphered by Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and refers to the "Blessed Mary, who lived an immaculate life" and died on February 9. The stone dates from the late 6th to early 7th century.

According to Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Nitzana is a key site in investigating the transition between the Byzantine and early Islamic periods. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Nitzana acted as the center of the surrounding villages and settlements. Among other things, it had a military fortress, as well as churches, a monastery, and a road station that served Christian pilgrims traveling to Saint Catherine, which believers regard as the site of Mount Sinai." According to Dr. Erickson-Gini, Nitzana had already been founded in the 3rd century BCE as a Nabataean road station on an important trade route and the site was inhabited intermittently for approximately 1,300 years, until it was abandoned in the 10th century. and his forgotten name.

Archaeological excavations at the site in the 1930s unearthed an archive of papyri and the name "Nessana" was rediscovered. The find of the funerary stone, which names the deceased as Mary, joins other stones commemorating Christians buried in churches and cemeteries around Nitzana that have been unearthed in excavations by Ben Gurion University of the Negev, among others. .

Israel Antiquities Authority Southern District archaeologist Pablo Betzer said: “Unlike other ancient cities in the Negev, very little is known about the cemeteries around Nitzana. Finding an inscription like this may improve our definition of the burial grounds, thus helping to reconstruct the boundaries of the settlement itself, which have yet to be determined."

Photo: IAA_NitzanaStone Photo: Emil Aldjem, Israel Antiquities Authority


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