Archaeologists discovered the remains of a lavish rural mansion used by a wealthy Muslim family while conducting excavations close to the Bedouin town of Rahat.
On August 23, 2022, archaeologists excavating in Israel’s southern Negev desert unearthed a 1,200-year-old home, adding to the understanding of the area where a mosque was previously found.
The residence, which the Israel Antiquities Authority referred to as a “luxurious rural estate,” had a marble-paved hallway and frescoed walls.
According to the IAA, it was the first structure of its kind discovered in the southern Negev desert. It included domed rooms arranged around a central courtyard, providing a rare window into the lifestyle of the area’s affluent inhabitants.
The opulent house has four wings with multiple rooms for its residents, and it is constructed around a courtyard. A marble hallway with stone floors and ornate wall decorations may be found in one opulent area. Archaeologists also discovered broken pieces of decorative glass serving utensils.
Archaeologists were shocked to find stone subterranean vaults beneath the courtyard; they think these vaults were utilized to store goods at a lower temperature away from the intense desert sun. The vaults appear to be properly built and strong enough to permit underground movement between them. An entryway from the vaulted rooms also leads to a cistern where inhabitants may receive cool drinking water.
In underground storage spaces, oil-light ruins were found.
“The luxurious estate and the unique impressive underground vaults are evidence of the owners’ means,” said a statement from the archaeologists leading the excavations.
“Their high status and wealth allowed them to build a luxurious mansion that served as a residence and for entertaining,” added Oren Shmueli, Elena Kogan-Zehavi, and Noe D. Michael.
“We assume whoever lived here was some local ruler,” Michael told AFP, adding that such estates had been “totally unknown in the Negev until today”.
According to the authority, the discovery near the Bedouin town of Rahat is from the 8th or 9th century, during the early Islamic era.
An unusual mosque from the same time period that Israeli archaeologists uncovered in June is near the estate.
According to the IAA, the location presumably formerly hosted a few dozen Muslim pilgrims for prayer.
In the first half of the seventh century, the Muslims conquered the area.
Michael continued, “After we finish the excavation (of the mansion), it is planned that this place will be preserved, alongside other discoveries like the mosque”