Israel unveils 1,200 year-old desert mansion

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Israeli archaeologists unveiled a 1,200 year-old mansion on Tuesday, broadening knowledge of the southern desert region where a mosque was recently discovered.

Described as a “luxurious rural estate” by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the home boasted a marble-paved hallway and walls decorated with frescoes.

The first building of its kind to be found in the southern Negev desert, according to the IAA, it contained vaulted rooms around a central courtyard.

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The remains of oil lamps were unearthed in storage rooms underground, along with a cistern.

“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.

The site in the Bedouin city of Rahat is due to be opened to the public on Thursday.

The estate is close to a rare mosque dating back to the same period, which Israeli archaeologists unveiled in June.

A few dozens Muslims likely worshipped at the site at one time, the IAA said.

The Muslim conquest of the region occurred in the first half of the seventh century.

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