July 2018 – A series of caves, likely used by the first-century church, has been discovered in Manbij, Syria, a city occupied by ISIS for two years until the regime was driven out by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in 2016.
The Exploration Committee at the Ruins Council in Manbij had begun exploring the area before ISIS control. However, the terrorists were unaware of the ancient, “underground” church or refuge for Christians beneath the mound of land where they often dumped their trash.
After their departure, further exploration beyond a gate led into underground tunnels with grooved shelves for lighting and a structure believed to be an altar. A second cave recently discovered includes a multitude of rooms, along with geometric designs consistent with the Roman era and overt Christian symbols.
John Wineland, professor of history and archeology at Southeastern University, said the findings “indicate that there was a significant Christian population in the area who felt they needed to hide their activities.”