Thirty-one engraved Christian crosses, including the one seen above, found on pillars inside the cave suggest that the human-made quarry could have later become a monastery, excavation leader Zertal said, though he cautioned his theories are still premature.
The University of North Carolina's Magness, who wasn't involved in the dig, said the crosses alone don't point to the existence of a church, since random pilgrims may have entered and made the carvings--a common phenomenon.
Churches at that time would have also had altars, apses, and other "liturgical furniture," she explained, though it could be that such evidence has not yet been found in the cave.
"It's certainly not far-fetched that Christian presence in the cave is associated with monastic activity, because the area is a hotbed of monastic activity," she added.
Photograph courtesy University of Haifa