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25 July 2018
Archaeological find has changed the views of scientists on the relationship of Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

Recently in Israel archaeologists have discovered an object that sheds additional light on the relations of Christians and Muslims in the early period of Islam.

Such a thing was a small weight made of brass made during Byzantium and found during excavations with a metal detector in place of the ancient city of Hippos (Sushita). Dr. Alexander Iermolin of the Archaeological Institute of Haifa University, to whom the weight was handed, found on its obverse a strange dark spot in the form of a cross.

"The stain was made specifically to hide the cross, the Christian religious symbol used by the Christian population, so that they could continue to use this weight in contact with the new Muslim authority," explains archaeologist Michael Eisenberg. "We first discovered a weight with a hidden detail of this type."

According to Eisenberg, the first desire of archaeologists was to clean the stain, but they were stopped by its unusual shape. Therefore, they transferred the weight to a study for the expert on ancient metallurgy Dr. Sariel Shalev from the University of Haifa, who concluded that the stain appeared on the weight not by accident.

The expert's conclusion is that the melting point of the paint was about one-third of the melting point of the other elements of the weight. Since the people of that time were skilled artisans, it was clear that the stain was specially applied to the weight. Moreover, small sections of the silver cross were cut down so that the weight of the object did not change exactly.

The city of Hippos was a settlement of the 2nd century, greatly increased in the times of the Roman and Byzantine empires. The city was completely destroyed because of the earthquake in 749, when it was in the territory of the first Islamic caliphate, governed by the Umayyad dynasty. Since 2000 on the site of Hippos are archaeological excavations.

Researchers have long believed that the authorities of the first Islamic states were relatively tolerant of other religions. Historical records and evidence show that Christians at that time could relatively freely practice their religion. According to Dr. Eisenberg, the weight found in Hippos confirms that the tolerance of Muslims had strict limitations.

- The cross was specially hidden by church ministers in the early Islamic period, so that they could continue to use this weight, including through contacts with Muslim authorities in Tiberias, "says Eisenberg. "This illustrates perfectly the gap that existed during this period of regime change, between the significant religious and cultural freedom and the border, beyond which a Muslim official could confiscate an object that clearly depicted a Christian emblem.

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