During March 1999 an excavation was conducted in the nave of the church at Shavé-Ziyyon (Permit No. A-3025*; map ref. NIG 20801–2/76570–1; OIG 15801–2/26570–1), prior to resetting the mosaic floor that was removed for conservation purposes. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by A. Thatcher, assisted by H. Tahan (surveying, drafting and drawing), D. Syon (numismatics) and A. Altmark (metallurgical laboratory).
The church was excavated in 1955 by M.W. Prausnitz (Excavations at Shavei Zion, Roma 1967).
Two squares (25 sq m) were opened, revealing wall and floor sections; three occupation levels were discerned (Fig. 1).
Stratum 3 was dated to the Persian period. A floor segment (L21; thickness 3 cm), which consisted of crushed chalk mixed with shells and overlaid a potsherd layer (L24; Fig. 3:1–3), was discovered.
Stratum 2 was dated to the end of the Persian and the beginning of the Hellenistic period (Fig. 2). Two perpendicular walls (W14, W19) were uncovered. A plaster floor (L23; thickness 1 cm) abutted W19 on the south; a floor of plaster and shells (L20; thickness c. 0.2 m) abutted W14 on the west. Above the latter floor were the remains of an installation (W18), as well as pottery fragments (Fig. 3:4–7), a figurine head (Fig. 3:8), a spindle whorl (Fig. 3:9), several bronze objects and an autonomous coin from Tyre, dating to the fourth century BCE (IAA 84631; Fig. 4).
Stratum 1 was dated to the Byzantine period. It consisted of a sandy fill layer (L16, L17) that contained jar fragments from the late Byzantine period (Fig. , 11). The bedding for the floors and columns of the church was placed on top of this fill (L12, L13).
Prausnitz determined that the church was founded in the fourth century CE, whereas other sections of the church were dated to the end of the fifth century CE, based on a date in a Greek dedicatory inscription on the mosaic floor of the western narthex. Prausnitz presumed that the church was destroyed at the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the seventh century CE. The pottery vessels from the late Byzantine period found at the location of the chancel screen suggest that although the church was established in the fifth century CE, the area of the chancel was repaired and expanded, at the expense of the nave, during the sixth century CE.