Israel uncovers Roman history at Mediterranean port


Israeli archaeologists working on a major Roman-era port city have unveiled new discoveries including an altar dedicated to Augustus Caesar and a centuries-old mother-of-pearl tablet inscribed with a menorah.

The finds at Caesarea, a complex on the Mediterranean coast 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv, were the result of ‘one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel,’ the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Caesarea was established some 2,030 years ago by Roman-appointed King Herod the Great, who ruled what was then Judea.

Caesarea was established some 2,030 years ago by Roman-appointed King Herod the Great, who ruled what was then Judea. Pictured, people sit next to an ancient aqueduct in the Roman-era city

Caesarea was established some 2,030 years ago by Roman-appointed King Herod the Great, who ruled what was then Judea. Pictured, people sit next to an ancient aqueduct in the Roman-era city

Caesarea was established some 2,030 years ago by Roman-appointed King Herod the Great, who ruled what was then Judea. Pictured, people sit next to an ancient aqueduct in the Roman-era city

Today, the ruins are a popular tourist destination where concerts are still held in the remains of an ancient Roman theatre.

Archaeologist Peter Gendelman, leading a tour of the site, said the preservation work was perhaps the most ‘complicated and interesting’ project he had worked on in his 30-year career.

Some of the finds are ‘completely changing our understanding of the dynamics of this area’, he said.

Authorities are planning to finish the excavations within months and open a visitors’ centre built into ancient vaults to illustrate the city’s history.

Archaeologists say a small tablet engraved with a seven-branched menorah, discovered during at the ancient harbour of Caesarea, indicates Jewish presence at the site dating back to the fourth or fifth centuries

Archaeologists say a small tablet engraved with a seven-branched menorah, discovered during at the ancient harbour of Caesarea, indicates Jewish presence at the site dating back to the fourth or fifth centuries

Israeli archaeologists working on a major Roman-era port city on Wednesday unveiled new discoveries including an altar dedicated to Augustus Caesar and a centuries-old mother-of-pearl tablet inscribed with a menorah

Israeli archaeologists working on a major Roman-era port city on Wednesday unveiled new discoveries including an altar dedicated to Augustus Caesar and a centuries-old mother-of-pearl tablet inscribed with a menorah

Archaeologists say a small tablet engraved with a seven-branched menorah, discovered during at the ancient harbour of Caesarea, indicates Jewish presence at the site dating back to the fourth or fifth centuries. They also found the head of a figurine depicting the Asclepius

The finds at Caesarea, a complex on the Mediterranean coast 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv, were the result of 'one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel,' the Israel Antiquities Authority said

The finds at Caesarea, a complex on the Mediterranean coast 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv, were the result of 'one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel,' the Israel Antiquities Authority said

The finds at Caesarea, a complex on the Mediterranean coast 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv, were the result of ‘one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel,’ the Israel Antiquities Authority said

Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, said Caesarea was a major city from Roman times right through to the Crusader era.

‘This was by far the most important port city in this area of the Middle East,’ he said.

The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and local authorities have allocated more than 100 million shekels ($27 million, 25 million euros) for the project.

The site, which contains ruins from later periods including the Byzantine, Muslim and Crusader eras, has been the focus of major excavation work over the decades but recent work has revealed new secrets.

Today, the ruins are a popular tourist destination where concerts are still held in the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. Part of an ancient synagogue in Caesarea is seen above 

Today, the ruins are a popular tourist destination where concerts are still held in the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. Part of an ancient synagogue in Caesarea is seen above 

Today, the ruins are a popular tourist destination where concerts are still held in the remains of an ancient Roman theatre. Part of an ancient synagogue in Caesarea is seen above 

Archaeologist Peter Gendelman, leading a tour of the site, said the preservation work was perhaps the most 'complicated and interesting' project he had worked on in his 30-year career

Archaeologist Peter Gendelman, leading a tour of the site, said the preservation work was perhaps the most 'complicated and interesting' project he had worked on in his 30-year career

Archaeologist Peter Gendelman, leading a tour of the site, said the preservation work was perhaps the most ‘complicated and interesting’ project he had worked on in his 30-year career

The project also aims to preserve the remains of an ancient synagogue and a nearby aquaduct.

Officials said a small mother-of-pearl tablet engraved with a menorah was testimony to an ancient Jewish presence at the site.

Archaeologists said it likely dates to the fourth or fifth century AD.

THE ANCIENT CITY, CAESAREA

Caesarea is an ancient Roman-era port and city situated in present-day Israel.

It was first a Phoenician settlement, before it was rebuilt in 22-10 BCE by Herod the Great.

Caesarea acted as a port for the newly built city at Sebaste, and served as a base for the Herodian navy.

In the year 6 CE, it became the capital of the Roman province of Judea, making it an important region in early Christianity.

The city had an artificial harbour made of concrete blocks and public buildings, along with an aqueduct that brought water from springs almost 10 miles away. 

Now, the site also contains ruins from later periods including the Byzantine, Muslim and Crusader eras.

Last year, Israel’s Antiquities Authority on Monday revealed cargo from a merchant ship that sank off the ancient Mediterranean port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago, including rare bronze statues and thousands of coins.

The find, happened upon by two divers, consisted primarily of ‘metal slated for recycling’ borne on the ship from Caesarea in the late Roman period, IAA experts said.

Some of the finds are 'completely changing our understanding of the dynamics of this area', he said. Authorities are planning to finish the excavations within months and open a visitors' centre built into ancient vaults to illustrate the city's history

Some of the finds are 'completely changing our understanding of the dynamics of this area', he said. Authorities are planning to finish the excavations within months and open a visitors' centre built into ancient vaults to illustrate the city's history

Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, said Caesarea was a major city from Roman times right through to the Crusader era

Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, said Caesarea was a major city from Roman times right through to the Crusader era

Some of the finds are ‘completely changing our understanding of the dynamics of this area’, he said. Authorities are planning to finish the excavations within months and open a visitors’ centre built into ancient vaults to illustrate the city’s history

Pictured, workers take part in renovations at the ancient harbour in part of one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel'

Pictured, workers take part in renovations at the ancient harbour in part of one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel'

Pictured, workers take part in renovations at the ancient harbour in part of one of the largest and most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Israel’

Researchers also came upon a gathering of frui bats inside a cave in the Israeli Mediterranean town of Caesarea during the renovations of the ancient harbour

Researchers also came upon a gathering of frui bats inside a cave in the Israeli Mediterranean town of Caesarea during the renovations of the ancient harbour

Researchers also came upon a gathering of frui bats inside a cave in the Israeli Mediterranean town of Caesarea during the renovations of the ancient harbour

But a storm at the entrance to Caesarea harbour crashed the large ship into the seawall and rocks, the IAA said, spilling the cargo into the sea and preserving the ‘exciting finds’.

‘Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity,’ Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the IAA and his deputy Dror Planer said at the time in a joint statement, noting such a trove hasn’t been found in Israel for 30 years.

The artefacts include ‘a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave (and) fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues,’ the IAA said.

RARE BRONZE ARTEFACTS FOUND AT CAESAREA SHIPWRECK

Last year, ancient artefacts were recovered from a merchant ship that sank off the Mediterranean port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago.

The intriguing objects include thousands of coins and rare bronze statues, which, perhaps unbelievably, were destined for an ancient Roman recycling depot.

The treasure has now been recovered by Israeli divers.

It was possible to see iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel, as well as other precious artefacts (one shown being plucked from the bed)

It was possible to see iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel, as well as other precious artefacts (one shown being plucked from the bed)

It was possible to see iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel, as well as other precious artefacts (one shown being plucked from the bed)

After the divers, Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan of Ra‘anana contacted Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA), a joint dive at the site revealed an extensive portion of the seabed had been cleared of sand and the remains of a ship were left uncovered on the sea bottom.

It was possible to see iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel, as well as other precious artefacts.

The (IAA) confirmed the goods were originally being carried on the ship from Caesarea in the late Roman period, but a storm at the entrance to the harbour caused it to crash into the sea wall and rocks.

Artefacts from a merchant ship that sank off the ancient Mediterranean port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago are presented to the press by Israel's Antiquities Authority on May 16, 2016 ©Jack Guez (AFP)

Artefacts from a merchant ship that sank off the ancient Mediterranean port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago are presented to the press by Israel's Antiquities Authority on May 16, 2016 ©Jack Guez (AFP)

Artefacts from a merchant ship that sank off the ancient Mediterranean port of Caesarea 1,600 years ago are presented to the press by Israel’s Antiquities Authority on May 16, 2016 ©Jack Guez (AFP)

There were also ‘objects fashioned in the shape of animals such as a whale (and) a bronze faucet in the form of a wild boar with a swan on its head,’ the statement said, noting the sand protected the statues which were ‘in an amazing state of preservation.’

And, the year before, a record trove of some 2,000 gold coins was uncovered in the same area, with Sharvit crediting the abundance of divers with the growing number of finds.

According to Sharvit and Planer, the finds reflect the ‘economic and commercial stability in the wake of the stability of the Roman Empire,’ a period in which ‘Christianity was on its way to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.’

Archaeologists said some of the finds likely date to the fourth or fifth century AD. Artifacts discovered during the renovation of the ancient harbour are pictured above 

Archaeologists said some of the finds likely date to the fourth or fifth century AD. Artifacts discovered during the renovation of the ancient harbour are pictured above 

Archaeologists said some of the finds likely date to the fourth or fifth century AD. Artifacts discovered during the renovation of the ancient harbour are pictured above 

The project also aims to preserve the remains of an ancient synagogue and a nearby aquaduct. Officials said a small mother-of-pearl tablet engraved with a menorah was testimony to an ancient Jewish presence at the site

The project also aims to preserve the remains of an ancient synagogue and a nearby aquaduct. Officials said a small mother-of-pearl tablet engraved with a menorah was testimony to an ancient Jewish presence at the site

The project also aims to preserve the remains of an ancient synagogue and a nearby aquaduct. Officials said a small mother-of-pearl tablet engraved with a menorah was testimony to an ancient Jewish presence at the site



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