(NBC NEWS) A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor with colorful images of animals, botanical and geometrical designs has been brought to light during the excavation of a Byzantine-era Christian church in southern Israel.

“The church probably served as a center of Christian worship for the neighboring communities,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a news release about the find, issued Wednesday. The floor and other remains of the basilica were found over the past three months during preparations for the construction of a new neighborhood at Moshav Aluma, the agency said.

The church was part of a major Byzantine settlement located next to the main road running between Ashkelon on Israel’s Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem to the east. Previous excavations along the road had found traces of other communities from the same period, but no churches.

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