One of the earliest known mosques in the world was uncovered in the Bedouin city of Rahat, in Israel’s Negev Desert. The rural mosque, and a fortified estate, were discovered during large-scale archeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority ahead of construction of a new Bedouin neighborhood in Rahat. The excavations show the gradual transition from Christianity to Islam that took place in the seventh to ninth centuries CE. The mosque, estimated to be more than 1,200 years old, is the second to be found in the area. It is located about two kilometers from another seventh-century rural mosque that was excavated in 2019. The excavations, directed by Oren Shmueli, Dr. Elena Kogan-Zehavi, and Dr. Noe David Michael on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealed buildings with Christian and Early Islamic characteristics in close proximity to one another. The archeologists uncovered a farmhouse of the Byzantine period that apparently housed Christian farmers and included a fortified tower and rooms with strong walls surrounding a courtyard. On a nearby hilltop, they found estates constructed in a completely different manner, that were built about 100 years later, apparently by Muslims during the early Islamic period.
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