Over the past nine days, hundreds of soldiers from the IDF’s elite ‘Duvdevan’ unit participated in archeological excavations in a military fire zone in the West Bank. During their excavations, the soldiers uncovered an ancient and magnificent structure that likely served as a palace during the Byzantine period.

Horkania archaeological site

Horkania archaeological site Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

About 300 combat soldiers from the IDF’s “Duvdevan” Unit participated in archaeological excavations at an ancient archeological site in the West Bank and discovered a number of historic items, including an ancient structure that may have been a palace from the Byzantine period. The excavations were carried out in cooperation with members of the Kfar Etzion Field School at the Horkania archaeological site located in a military fire zone.

This is one of the largest archeological sites from the Hasmonean period and it is being excavated now for the first time. Though the area is officially declared a military fire zone, tomb raiders and looters visit it daily and have managed to destroy many ancient historical artifacts. According to Amichai Noam, the director of the Kfar Etzion Institute, the looting was what prompted him to initiate the excavations.

On the soldiers’ discovery, Noam said that it “attests to the fact that the building we found was not a residential building, but a structure that served for some luxurious purpose: there are foundations for stone arches, a remnant of a Corinthian inscription and a plaster decorated with colors called a fresco. All of these indicate that it was a luxurious place, perhaps a palace, and some of these we only just found today.”

The principal of the field school, Yaron Rosenthal, called on the authorities to intervene in protecting the site before it is too late. “We call upon the Civil Administration and the State of Israel to continue excavating the Horkania site, thereby rescuing it from looting that takes place daily, and to turn it into a tourism site as part of the important story of the history of the Jewish people.”