A stone box was found that may once have contained relics of Peter, Andrew and Philip.
Most startling of all, is the discovery of what archaeologists believe may be a reliquary that once contained relics of three apostles.
Last year archaeologists believed they had found the ancient fishing village of Bethsaida, mentioned in the New Testament as the home of the apostles, after unearthing Roman ruins beneath a Byzantine church that, according to the records of a pilgrim from that time, was built over the house of Peter and Andrew.
The finding corroborated an account of a pilgrimage made by a Christian named Willibald who traveled through the area in 725. He noted that he visited a church in Bethsaida that stood over the house of Peter and Andrew.
The discovery of Roman-era artifacts contradicts previous assumptions that the area of the dig was once underwater.
“The current excavations have demonstrated beyond any question that the site of el-Araj was settled in the Roman period and was not underwater as the archaeologists of et-Tell have claimed,” Dr. R. Steven Notley of Nyack College.
“Since our settlement is situated between et-Tell and the Sea of Galilee, we have strengthened our claim that el-Araj is the leading candidate for the fishing village of Bethsaida, home of the Apostles. Not only have we uncovered buildings and artifacts from this early period, we have unearthed more evidence from the later Byzantine church, which was reported by pilgrims to be built over the house of Peter and Andrew,” said Notley.
Included among this year’s archaeological finds is a smooth stone box from the Byzantine church, which archaeologists believe may once have contained relics of the apostles.
According to a press release issued by the archaeologists, the container is “a large block of basalt, weighing some 300 kgs. with three smoothly carved depressions. It might have been used as a reliquary in a church, perhaps the church described by Willibald. If so, it may have held the relics of the Apostles under the altar of the church.”
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