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Early Christian “secret church” excavated in former ISIS-held territory

SECRET CHURCH ENTRANCE
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The tunnels used to escape the Romans remained hidden from ISIS

In 2014, archaeologists discovered a system of tunnels that are believed to have been a “secret church,” where early Christians could worship and escape Roman persecution, in Syria. Daily Mail reports the tunnels contained escape routes, hidden doors, Greek inscriptions, and a makeshift altar. Unfortunately, shortly after this remarkable find, ISIS rose to power and occupied the region, cutting off access to the area until now.

In a near miraculous turn of events, just as the Romans could not find the entrance to this elaborate network of tunnels, ISIS completely overlooked the ancient gate that leads deep underground. Had the Islamic State found the site, it would have likely been destroyed.

HIDDEN GATE
FOX News
A hidden gate that somehow remained undiscovered by ISIS.

Read more: As ISIS threatens ancient treasures, world leaders pledge money to stop them

For three years archaeologists kept the site a secret in the hope that they might begin excavation once ISIS was gone. They finally began the process in August 2017, revealing a second component of the tunnel system with stone steps leading to a cave that contained different rooms and Christian symbols.

Abdulwahab Sheko, head of the Exploration Committee at the Ruins Council in Manbij, spoke to Fox News about the first “location.”

“This place is so special,” He told Fox News, “Here is where I think the security guard would stand at the gate watching for any movement outside.

“He would warn the others to exit through the other passage if they needed to flee.”

Fox News notes that the first tunnel was devoid of Christian symbols, suggesting that it was in use during the height of Roman persecution, while the second tunnel contains crosses, leading experts to assume it was in use after Constantine decriminalized Christianity, in the year 313.

CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS
FOX News
Crosses and christian symbols found within in the tunnel.

Now that ISIS has been driven from the area, archaeologists are free to excavate deeper and see what they find. Researchers at the site say they are committed to protecting it.

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