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Operation to prevent looting has led to discovery of burial caves



A joint operation to prevent the looting of antiquities by the Kafr Kanna Police and the Israel Antiquities Authority Theft Prevention Unit has led to the discovery of a burial caves near Kafr Kanna in Galilee, Israel.

The team investigated a plot near the village of Mashhad where they recovered stone ossuary’s (small burials chests) and found a burial cave from the Roman period that was entirely destroyed by large scale construction works.

Upon further inspection of the site, the removal of earth revealed a second rock-hewn burial cave with niches and decorated stone ossuary’s, although the cave has also been partially damaged by the construction works. The ossuary’s were found empty and moved from their original location, suggesting that the cave had recently been looted.

The ossuary’s are small rectangular chests carved in soft limestone that were used for the secondary burial of human bones after the body tissue decayed. The custom of secondary burial in stone ossuary’s was a Jewish practice carried out in Judea and the Galilee area in the Early Roman period from around the first century BC.

Image Credit : Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

A closer inspection of one of the ossuary’s shows an inscription depicting a mausoleum in Greek or a “nefesh” in Hebrew. Another ossuary is carved with a circular wreath in which holes were drilled, thought by some to symbolise the victory of the deceased over death.

All construction work has been stopped and several workers have been summoned to the local police station on suspicion of damaging antiquities and failing to report the discovery to authorities.

In Israel, there is a legal obligation to report chance finds of antiquities to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and damaging antiquities is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

According to Amir Ganor, Director of the Theft Prevention Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority: “The original details of the destroyed cave cannot be reconstructed, and almost two-thousand-year-old cultural assets are lost forever. Thanks to the vigilance and determination of the Kafr Kanna Police, and the successful cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, one of the caves was mostly saved.”


Header Image Credit : Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

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Early medieval carved stone of a warrior figure found in Glasgow




Archaeologists excavating the grounds of Govan Old Church in Glasgow, England, have discovered an early medieval carved stone figure dubbed the “Govan Warrior”.

Govan Old Church is the home of the Govan Stone Museum, a collection of early medieval and Viking-Age sculptures found in the grounds, including 30 sculptures from a lost kingdom of Old Welsh-speaking Britons known as the Ystrad Clud who dominated the Clyde valley from the 5th to 11th centuries AD.

Excavations have been conducted by the University of Glasgow and Clyde Archaeology, in which a carved stone of a warrior was uncovered during a community fun day organised as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival.

The carved stone depicts a man standing side on and carrying a round shield and a shaft. According to the researchers, the discovery dates from around 1,000-years-ago and is unlike any of the other carved stones found at Govan Old.

According to a press statement by the University of Glasgow: “The Govan Warrior is unique within the existing collection due to its stylistic characteristics, which has drawn parallels with Pictish art and carvings from the Isle of Man. Unlike the other stones in the Govan collection, whose chunky style of carving is so distinctive that it has been described as a school of carving in its own right (the ‘Govan School’), the Govan Warrior is lightly incised, which may bring parallels with famous Pictish stones like the Rhynie Man from Aberdeenshire.”

Professor Stephen Driscoll said: “It’s a style that makes us think both about the Pictish world and also about the Isle of Man and it’s interesting that we are halfway between these two places. Govan is the ideal place for these two artistic traditions or styles to come together.”

University of Glasgow

Header Image Credit : Govan Heritage Trust

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Iron Age port discovered on Baltic Sea island of Gotska Sandön




An excavation project, in collaboration with archaeologists from Södertörn University, Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland, Gotland Museum, and the Swedish National Heritage Board, has led to the discovery of an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön.

Gotska Sandön is an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland County, situated 24 miles north of Faro in the Baltic Sea.

Earlier in 2023, archaeologists found two 2,000-year-old Roman coins on one of the island’s beaches. Both coins are made of silver, with one coin dating from AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and the other coin dating from AD 138-161 during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius

In the latest excavations, archaeologists have now discovered evidence of twenty hearths on the same beach as the Roman coins discovery.

According to Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University, the site is an Iron Age port, not in the sense of quays we imply in the modern era, but instead a place where Iron Age people regularly landed their boats and formed an encampment.

Although the purpose of the encampment is speculated, the researchers suggest that it may have been linked to an emerging seal hunting industry.

“Seal hunters may have come from the island of Gotland and landed on Sandön to boil seal blubber. This could have been what the hearths were used for, but we don’t yet know – there may be other reasons why the site looks like it does, such as it being a trading post,” said Rönnby.

Excavations and carbon-14 dating of one of the hearths has indicated that they also date from 2,000-years-ago, suggesting a possible link between the encampment and the Roman coins.


Header Image Credit : idw

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