A 1500-year-old marble column was discovered by local police officers patrolling coastal areas in southern Israel.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said it believes the pillar is a relic of a Byzantine church that stood in the ancient Roman city of Ashdod-Yam, remains of which can be found in the southern part of the modern day Ashdod.
The two city officers went on a routine patrol at the dunes in the city last week, when suddenly they noticed an object sticking out of the ground. They reported the incident to Israel Antiquities Authority, which sent inspectors who discovered the object was an ancient relic.
Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Eli Eskozido praised the officers for their awareness and didn't walk past the object.
"It seems that the pillar was exposed due to recent rains in the area. And each discovery like this adds another piece to the understanding of the cultural puzzle of the land of Israel in ancient times. It is important to remember that heavy rains in the winter may uncover findings and bring them up to the surface, and we call upon the public to report such incidents to us."
Ashdod-Yam was located on the southern part of modern-day Ashdod and was one of the most important coastal cities of the Byzantine period. The city, known as "Azotus Parlius," was spread over a vast area, and in the ancient Jordanian Madaba Map, which is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George in Madaba, it is depicted with public buildings, including churches.
Archaeologist of the Ashkelon area at the Israel Antiquities Authority Avi Levi said that "it is possible that the column discovered belonged to an ancient church that was described in the Madaba Map."