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Airport expansion in Iraq uncovers 1,700-year-old church

The remains of a 1,700-year-old monastery have been uncovered during an airport expansion project in Najaf, Iraq.

A hundred meters (yards) or so from taxiing airliners, Iraqi archaeologist Ali al-Fatli is showing a visitor around the delicately carved remains of a church that may date back some 1,700 years to early Christianity.

The church, a monastery and other surrounding ruins have emerged from the sand over the past five years with the expansion of the airport serving the city of Najaf, and have excited scholars who think this may be Hira, a legendary Arab Christian center.

“This is the oldest sign of Christianity in Iraq,” said al-Fatli, pointing to the ancient tablets with designs of grapes that litter the sand next to intricately carved monastery walls.

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Story: Kay Johnson, AP | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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