JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli archaeologists announced on Sunday the “once in a lifetime” discovery of a burial cave from the time of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, filled with dozens of pottery and bronze objects .
The cave was discovered on a beach on Tuesday when a mechanical excavator working in Palmahim National Park slammed into its roof, with archaeologists using a ladder to descend into the spacious man-made square cave.
In a video released by the Israel Antiquities Authority, stunned archaeologists shine flashlights on dozens of pottery vessels of varying shapes and sizes, dating to the reign of the ancient Egyptian king who died in 1213 BC.
Bowls – some of them painted red, some containing bones – chalices, cooking pots, storage jars, lamps and bronze arrowheads or spearheads could be seen in the cave.
The objects were funerary offerings to accompany the deceased on their final journey to the afterlife, found intact since their placement around 3,300 years ago.
At least one relatively intact skeleton was also found in two rectangular plots in the corner of the cave. “The cave can provide a comprehensive picture of Late Bronze Age burial customs,” said Eli Yannai, an IAA Bronze Age expert.
It’s an “extremely rare… once-in-a-lifetime find,” Yannai said, pointing to the additional fortune of the cave that remained sealed until its recent discovery.
“Like an Indiana Jones movie”
The finds date to the reign of Ramesses II, who controlled Canaan, a territory that roughly encompassed modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The provenance of the pottery – Cyprus, Lebanon, northern Syria, Gaza and Jaffa – testifies to “the lively commercial activity that took place along the coast”, Yannai said in an IAA statement.
Another IAA archaeologist, David Gelman, theorized the identity of the skeletons from the cave, located on what is now a popular beach in central Israel.
“The fact that these people were buried with weapons, including whole arrows, shows that these people could have been warriors, perhaps they were guards on ships – which may have been the reason for which they were able to get ships from all over the region,” he said.
Whoever the cave dwellers were, the find was “incredible,” Gelman said.
“Burial caves are rare as they are, and to find one that hasn’t been touched since it was first used 3,300 years ago is something you rarely find,” he said. .
“It looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie: you just step into the ground and everything is there as it was to begin with – intact pottery vessels, weapons, bronze vessels, burials such that they were.”
The cave has been resealed and is under surveillance while a plan for its excavation is being developed, the IAA said.
He noted that “a few items” had been looted in the short time between its discovery and its closure.
Posted in Dawn, September 19, 2022