Israeli archaeologists today said they have uncovered a 1,500-year-old church, including an unusually well-preserved mosaic floor with images of lions, foxes, fish and peacocks.
Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the church in the hills south-west of Jerusalem was active between the fifth and seventh centuries.
Archaeologists began digging after discovering that thieves were plundering the site.
Mr Ganor said archaeologists uncovered a mosaic "unique in its craftsmanship and level of preservation".
Though initially identifying the building as a synagogue, they concluded it was a Byzantine church.
Journalists were given a brief glimpse of the mosaic today before it was covered up again until funding becomes available for its proper preservation.