Georgian monks were here, inscription says

Jerusalem - Israeli archeologists puzzling over who inhabited a small Byzantine monastery have found an inscription in an underground crypt linking the church to a group of Georgian monks, only the third such find in Jerusalem.

A grave at the far end of the crypt had been covered by a stone with an inscription in an ancient Georgian script, a clue that could help researchers put together a clearer picture of the small Georgian community in ancient Jerusalem, said Jon Seligman, of Israel's Antiquities Authority.

It's a rare find, Seligman said, because the Georgians formed a small community in Jerusalem. The slab of stone was unveiled Tuesday at Jerusalem's Rockefeller Museum in a ceremony attended by Georgian ambassador Revaz Gachechiladze.

The inscription, the only one found in the crypt, reads, "Bishop Ioane of Georgia", and dates to the 5th century.

"We have yet to fully understand who he is," Seligman said. Researchers at Georgia's University of Tblisi will try to help identify the man who died in his 60s.

The burial chamber was discovered earlier this month when a construction crew began work on a home in the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Um Lisan. The crypt contains 13 tombs that held the remains of 30 monks.

The crypt is part of a monastery complex - a chapel with mosaic-tiled floors and a few cisterns - that was discovered in 1996 and which researchers first believed had belonged to Greek Christians.

"This gives a clearer picture of life in Jerusalem during the period, what the population of Jerusalem was, where they were coming from," Seligman said. - Sapa-AP

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