A team of Israeli archaeologists recently discovered an ancient mosque in the Bedouin settlement of Rahat, in the Negev desert, The Times of Israel reported last week.
The archaeologists were able to date the mosque back to the seventh century by identifying the age of the ancient ceramics housed within its foundations. The mosque is thought to be 1,200 years old.
“What is unique in our mosque is the proliferation of 7th-century ceramics on the site, making it one of the earliest mosques in the world,” archaeologist Dr. Elena Kogan-Zehavi, one of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation co-directors, told the Times.
A nearby, recently excavated mosque was thought to have been built around the same time, but the objects inside had been removed, making it difficult to date. In fact, there are many structures in the area from the Byzantine era, including Christian structures, such as monasteries and a Christian farmhouse.
“Islam came very, very early in the northern Negev and began to live alongside the Christian settlement,” said Kogan-Zehavi.
Rahat is the largest permanent settlement of the Bedouins, who Kogan-Zehavi said are eager to protect these sites of cultural heritage. The ancient mosques were most likely built by nomadic Muslims who settled the area before deciding to leave, for unknown reasons.
“History always repeats itself. The Rahat Bedouin left a nomadic life, settled in cities, and are trying to create a bit of a different life in their permanent settlement. The same thing happened 1,200 years ago,” said Kogan-Zehavi.