JERUSALEM, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Israeli archaeologists unearthed a 2,000-year-old ritual bath in Jerusalem, together with the remains of a 1,500-year-old church from the Byzantine period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said on Monday.
The findings were unearthed in excavations at the foot of Mount of Olives, near the Garden of Gethsemane.
According to the archaeologists, "the discovery of the bath, unaccompanied by buildings, probably attests to the existence of an agricultural industry at the site 2,000 years ago, possibly producing oil or wine."
They added that the Jewish laws of purification obliged workers involved in oil and wine production to purify themselves.
"The discovery of the bath may therefore hint at the origin of the place's ancient name, Gethsemane ("oil press" in Hebrew), a place where ritually pure oil was produced near the city," they explained.
The Byzantine church, also uncovered in a valley at the foot of the garden, was ornamented with finely carved stone elements that attest to its importance, while on the floor Greek inscriptions were found.
"The church was used at the time when Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, showing that Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem continued during this period as well," the archaeologists noted.
During the Middle Ages, a large monastery was built on the site with multiple rooms, sophisticated water systems, and two large cisterns adorned with molded crosses on their sides. The archaeologists found evidence of the site's destruction in the 12th century. Enditem