PHOTOS: "Glorious" Ancient Chamber Found in Israel

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June 30, 2009--Inside a newly discovered underground chamber, Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal points to an unseen carving that he suspects may be a Zodiac sign that dates back to the Roman period around the first century A.D.

The largest human-made cave in Israel, the 1-acre (0.4-hectare) space in the Jordan Valley is thought to have begun as a quarry. In subsequent centuries it may have served as a monastery and a hideout for persecuted Christians or the Roman army, Zertal said.

Archaeologists working in the valley found the cave this past March when they came across a hole in a rock face. When they entered the chamber, the researchers found a huge hall lined with 22 thick pillars--giving the "impression of a palace," said Zertal, of the University of Haifa.

"We didn't have much lightit was complete darkness," he said. But "even with the torches, we saw how glorious it looks."

--Christine Dell'Amore
—Photograph by Menahem Kahana, AFP, Getty Images
 
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