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Israel Antiquities Authority uncovers Byzantine-era monastery at construction site

The remains of a monastery dating back 1,500 years, including a mosaic floor adorned with birds, have been unearthed at an Israeli construction site, the Antiquities Authority said Wednesday. The Byzantine-era monastery, which includes a church, was uncovered during excavations ahead of the expansion of an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in the city Bet Shemesh. The Antiquities Authority director of the dig, Benyamin Storchan, said his team was “surprised by the wonderful state of preservation of the ancient remains, and the richness of the finds being uncovered.” Artifacts uncovered include a marble pillar base decorated with crosses and marble window screens from Turkey, as well as the elaborate mosaic floor featuring birds, leaves and pomegranates. “The richness found at the site suggests that complex may have been a main

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Oldest fossils ever found show life on Earth began before 3.5 billion years ago

It took more than 10 years of painstaking work, grinding an Australian rock containing fossils smaller than the eye could see, to confirm the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth, scientists said Monday. The 3.5-billion-year-old fossils — many narrower than a human hair — are described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal. Other teams of scientists have reported even earlier signs of fossil life, going back 3.95 billion years. But those studies are based on either an apparent shape of a microfossil, or a chemical trace — not both. “None of these studies are regarded as proof of life,” lead author John Valley, professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told AFP. “This is the first, oldest place where we have both morphology and the chemical fingerprint of life.”

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Inrap discovers a mikveh in the medieval Jewish quarter of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux

As early as the 13th century, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux sheltered a large Jewish community of around 70 families. Nestled in the heart of the medieval city, between the market square and the Episcopal palace, the memory of this quarter, or “quarry” persists through the name “Jewry Street”. It was composed of a few small, well delimited, streets that were closed each evening. During the Middle Ages, the city was an Episcopal center under the dominion of the Holy Roman Empire. The Jewish community was thus protected from the successive interdictions of the Kingdom of France (under Philippe Auguste, Louis IX, etc.). It seems to have thrived in the 14th century, especially after the expulsion in 1934. Starting in the middle of the 15th century, the lives of Jewish people became increasingly difficult due to new repressive measures. Those living in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux did not escape this fate and only three families were still present in 1486.

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