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Grave robber pursuit leads to ancient church

Police chasing after a gang of grave robbers stumbled across an ancient church outside of Jerusalem that may be the final resting place of the prophet Zecariah.

The hill-top church was destroyed by an earthquake some 1,300 years ago and lay partly buried until detectives from Israel’s Antiquities Authority, pursuing a gang of antiquity thieves, noticed an elaborate doorpost poking through the earth. The robbers got away — they were caught a few months later at a site nearby — but after weeks of digging, archaeologists uncovered the remains of the church. It was about the size of a basketball court and contained fallen marble pillars and a nearly pristine 10-metre-long mosaic floor.

Beneath the church’s altar is a burial chamber that the Antiquities Authority said may have been the tomb of the prophet Zechariah, known from the eponymous book in the Bible, written around 520 BC.

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Story: Ari Rabinovitch, Reuters | Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

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