A Byzantine church discovered near Jerusalem.
A Byzantine church discovered near Jerusalem. Photo by Michal Pat'el
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Archaeologists announced Wednesday they had uncovered a 1,500-year-old church, including an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks.

Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the church in the hills southwest of Jerusalem was active between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D.

Archaeologists began digging after discovering that thieves were plundering the site. Ganor said archaeologists uncovered a mosaic unique in its craftsmanship and level of preservation.

Though initially identifying the building as a synagogue, they concluded it was a Byzantine church.

Reporters were given a brief glimpse of the mosaic Wednesday. It is being covered up again until funding becomes available for its proper preservation.