Israeli Archaeologists Discover Rare 2,000-Year-Old Bronze Tools Near Sea of Galilee

Bronze artifact Magdala

First Century Synagogue Magdala

Aerial view of the Magdala synagogue (Skyview Company/IAA)

The Land of Israel constantly reveals hidden treasures, testifying to its rich history. This time, archaeologists discovered rare 2,000-year-old bronze tools in the Galilee dating from the Second Temple era.

Israeli archaeologists digging the ancient town of Magdala, near the Sea of Galilee, uncovered rare 2,000-year-old bronze tools, which are believed to have had unique ritual significance.

The implements, a decorated bronze incense shovel used for transferring burning embers from place to place and a bronze jug, were recently uncovered while the site was being cleared for construction. The IAA has been leading extensive excavations at the site in recent years, overseen by archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar, in partnership with the Anahuac University of Mexico, led by Mexican archaeologist, Dr. Marcela Zapata-Meza.

The bronze shovel, which is mentioned in the Bible, is thought to have been a sacred implement such as those used in the Temple. Incense shovels frequently appear in Jewish art as one of the religious articles associated with the Temple, and they have been depicted on mosaic floors of synagogues alongside the menorah and other Jewish religious artifacts.

Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the chief archaeologist at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said this incense shovel is one of ten others that were found in the country and are from the Second Temple period.

The incense shovel and jug found at Magdala were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the rooms of a storehouse that is located adjacent to the dock of a large Second Temple era Jewish town. “These implements might have been saved in the storeroom as heirlooms by a Jewish family living at Magdala, or they may have been used for daily work as well,” said Avshalom-Gorni.

Bronze jug Magdala

The uncovered rare bronze jug. (Eyad Bisharat/IAA)

During the archaeological dig at Magdala, a Jewish town dating to the time of the Second Temple was exposed, which included Jewish ritual baths, streets, a marketplace and industrial facilities, as well as a synagogue, the walls of which were decorated with colored plaster and a mosaic floor along the pavement.

A stone was uncovered in the middle of the synagogue’s main hall, the famed Magdala Stone, which is noted for detailed carvings depicting the Second Temple, carvings made while that Temple still stood and therefore assumed to have been made by an artist who had seen the Temple before it was destroyed by the Roman legions in 70 CE.

The synagogue is one of the seven oldest synagogues from this period uncovered so far in Israel.

The site is considered as the crossroads of Jewish and Christian History for its historical and religious significance for Jews and Christians.

Eyad Bisharat, who supervised the work in the excavation area on behalf of the IAA, recounted how “the volunteers were absolutely thrilled. They simply could not calm down knowing that these artifacts had been waiting just below the surface for 2,000 years. Even we veteran excavators were extremely excited because it’s not every day that one uncovers such rare artifacts as these, and in such a fine state of preservation”.

Arfan Najar,  an archaeologist leading the excavations on behalf of the IAA, a similar incense shovel and jug as those found in Magdala were discovered by Yigael Yadin in a cache dating to the time of the Bar Kochba (135CE) uprising which was revealed in the Cave of the Letters in the Judean Desert.

Incense shovels have also been found in the Galilee at Bethsaida, Taiyaba and in Wadi Hammam, and across the country, “but all-in-all this is a very rare find,” he said.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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Source: United with Israel