An old treasure found by a Palestinian farmer in Gaza

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According to Elter, the mosaic pavement was created sometime between the fifth and the seventh century. But he insisted that in order to ascertain its precise construction date and whether it was a part of a religious or secular complex, a thorough excavation must be carried out.

Elter, who has previously performed research in Gaza, was unable to visit the location but was able to view a number of images and videos that local research partners had collected.

In ancient times, the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian coastal territory wedged between Israel and Egypt, was a thriving trading route between Egypt and the Levant. Ancient civilizations dating from the Bronze Age to the Islamic and Ottoman centuries have left a wealth of ruins along the coastal strip.

The treasures are rarely guarded, though. They have previously been looted. Some of them have recently suffered harm or destruction as a result of construction work or hostilities with Israel. After the Islamist Hamas party took control of Gaza in 2007, an Israeli-Egyptian embargo was enforced, which devastated the economy and left limited resources for the preservation of antiquities.

As it strives to meet the demands of a constantly expanding population, Hamas itself pays little attention to maintaining the sites. The 115 square mile area is crammed with more than 2.3 million people. In order to construct housing developments for its employees, Hamas bulldozers demolished significant portions of a site in 2017 that included the remnants of a 4,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement.

Early this year, a Roman-era tomb was discovered in northern Gaza by bulldozers working on a housing project funded by Egypt.

The St. Hilarion monastery, which dates from the late Roman Empire to the Islamic Umayyad period, and the location of a Byzantine church that was renovated by foreign humanitarian organizations and inaugurated this year in the northern Gaza Strip are two of the few intact sites in Gaza.

Although these locations also include mosaics, Elter claimed that the most recent find in the town of Bureij in central Gaza is exceptional.

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