Women played a crucial role in the early church, and two archeologists recently discovered a mosaic that honors a female church donor.

Kinneret College archaeologist Mordechai Aviam and historian Jacob Ashkenazi uncovered a 5th-century Greek inscription in western Galilee memorializing a female named “Sausann” (or Shoshana) credited for the construction of a village church. 

According to the Times of Israel, this “Sausann” is thought to have been a woman of some standing, perhaps following in the footsteps of her presumed namesake, Susannah, who was among the women named in Luke 8:3 who provided for Jesus “out of their resources.”

“Sausann” was named on the mosaic without a spouse or male guardian, a surprise considering the patriarchal culture of the ancient time.

However, according to Catherine Kroeger writing for Christianity Today, the early church contained an inordinate number of women, particularly upper-class women. 

Kroeger said, “in the upper echelons of society, women often converted to Christianity while their male relatives remained pagans, lest they lose their senatorial status.”

With a three-year grant from the Israeli Science Foundation, Avaim told the Times of Israel the archaeologists are taking a cross-disciplinary approach to complete a modern study of Christian Galilee in Antiquity.

Aviam and Ashkenazi found seven lengthy 1,600-year-old inscriptions in three Byzantine churches.

For fear of vandals, the exact locations of the inscriptions are not yet public.