The Byzantine Eastern Church of Khirbet et-Tireh
Al-Houdalieh, Salah Hussein A.
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Khirbet et-Tireh was inhabited during the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, and was later used as agricultural land throughout the Ottoman-Turkish period and down to modern times. The ancient settlement has been determined to cover a total area of approximately 30,000 square meters. However, 75 percent of its historic fortified space has been destroyed over the past few decades by the construction of roads, a school, a gas station and several residential structures on its northern part. The surviving architectural remains at the Khirbet include a system of fortifications, a Byzantine monastery, two Byzantine-era churches, a rock-cut reservoir, a cistern, water channels, a rock-cut olive press, several burial caves, a street (or a wide pathway corridor), and several dry-stone terrace walls. The unearthed part of the eastern church complex measures 28.8 m long along its east-west axis and a maximum of 25.5 m wide in its north-south dimension. It follows a basilical plan and consists of five main parts: four south side rooms, an atrium, a narthex, a main hall, and three northeast side rooms. The entire area of the church was once paved with mosaic carpets consisting of geometric and figurative designs, with the richly colored tesserae encompassing various shades of white, black, grey, yellow, orange, pink, wine red, green and blue. Furthermore, remains of two plaster layers were uncovered on the interior faces of the majority of the walls of the church complex. After the final consolidation and conservation of the mosaic pavements of the church, as a protective measure we are covering the mosaics with a permeable, plastic-mesh geotextile, topped by a layer of sieved soil 0.25 m thick.