Luxury digs: sprawling 1,200-year-old mansion found in Israel’s Negev Desert

Luxury can be found in unexpected places. Archaeologists announced Tuesday the discovery of a 1,200-year-old property in the Negev desert in southern Israel that has unique underground structures that allow its owners to overcome the scorching summer heat.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement about the discovery that the sprawling property may have been the residence of a wealthy landowner who oversaw farms in the area. It was discovered during excavations before the expansion of the Bedouin city of Rahat, just north of Beersheba.

Dating to the early Islamic Period in the 8th or 9th century AD, archaeologists said the mansion had four wings and was erected around a main courtyard. Beautifully colored frescoes adorn the walls and floor in one of the wings, while in the other rooms there were enormous ovens, possibly used for cooking, they said.

But the most surprising discovery was made under the courtyard – a three-meter-deep cistern dug into the rock, providing residents with year-round cold water and adjacent vaulted structures.

Archaeologists Oren Shmueli, Elena Kogan-Zhavi and Noé D. Michael, who led the IAA excavation, said the underground vaulted structures were used to store foodstuffs, allowing residents to roam freely underground without being exposed to the deterrent sun.

“The luxurious property and uniquely impressive underground vaults are evidence of their owners’ tools,” the archaeologists said in a statement. Said.

Water cistern. (Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority)

“Their high status and wealth allowed them to build a luxurious mansion that served for residence and entertainment; We can examine the construction methods and architectural styles and learn about daily life in Najaf at the beginning of Islamic rule,” he said.

Eli Eskosido, director of the IAA, commended the collaboration of archaeologists at Casual with the local community and said the discovery had generated “interest and excitement”.

The property “has been unearthed, perhaps one of the oldest ever discovered, in a site located between two ancient mosques… The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority jointly plan to preserve and display the finds to the general public.”

The IAA said on Thursday that the site will be open to the public for free tours, including family digging and screening activities.

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