Ancient Christian church ruins discovered in ISIS territory in Syria

Archeologists exploring in Syria have found remnants of an ancient Christian church in a former ISIS territory. Etched on the walls of the church site's tunnel system are crosses, Christian symbols and Greek inscriptions that have been oblivious to the extremist group that occupied the site two years ago.

(Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)Graffiti (R) sprayed by Islamic State militants which reads "We remain" is seen at theTemple of Bel in historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016.

Locals have since been using the site to dump trash for years. An old gate protruded from the ground that archeologist learned extended several feet down. They estimated that the ruins dated back to the first centuries of the existence of Christianity during the Roman Empire.

Abdulwahab Sheko of the Exploration Committee at the Ruins Council led the dig to the secret church. The ruins connected to several narrow tunnels that worshippers might have used as passageways. On the walls of the tunnels were large stones that worked as hidden doors that led to what might have been an altar.

"This place is so special," Sheko told Fox News. "Here is where I think the security guard would stand at the gate watching for any movement outside," he further explained, adding, "He could warn the others to exit through the other passage if they needed to flee."

The excavation team knew of the site as early as 2014. Digging, however, did not commence until August last year as ISIS controlled the area for two years until they were driven out in 2017.

Locals helped the archeologists through the tunnel system when the excavation finally started. They believed that the site would have been destroyed had the ISIS found out about the Christian remnants.

Experts from the U.S. told Fox News that the discovery confirmed the existence of secret churches during the early centuries after the death of Jesus Christ.

"[It showed] the persecution by the Roman government, which was common in the period," John Wineland, an archeology professor from Southeastern University, said. "[The ruins] indicate that there was a significant Christian population in the area which felt they needed to hide their activities," he further stated.

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