|Mati Milstein in Rihab, Jordan |
for National Geographic News
|June 13, 2008|
| A Jordanian archaeologist's announcement this week that he had uncovered the world's first Christian church in an underground cave drew surprise and skepticism from experts in Jordan and beyond.|
The Jordan Times earlier this week quoted archaeologist Abdel-Qader al-Housan, director of the Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies as saying, "We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 A.D. to 70 A.D."
Al-Housan later told the Associated Press that he discovered a cave beneath St. George's Church, one of the world's oldest known churches, in the northern Jordanian city of Rihab, and that the cave shows evidence of early Christian rituals.
The archaeologist said he found a circular worship area inside the cave with stone seats separated from a living area that had a long tunnel leading to a source of water.
Ghazi Bisheh, former director general of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, dismissed the claim as "ridiculous," saying the archaeologist behind them "has a tendency to sensationalize discoveries" and offered no evidence to back his recent assertion.