2,200-year-old Bronze Artifacts Found At Biblical Site

2,200-year-old Bronze Artifacts Found At Biblical Site

2,200-Year-Old Bronze Artefacts Found At Magdala

In archaeological excavations in Magdala, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, a decorated bronze incense shovel (used to move embers from place to place) and bronze jug have recently been uncovered.

Aerial view of the Magdala synagogue

The Israel Antiquities Authority is undertaking archeological excavations to establish a guesthouse in Magdala. Arke New Gate owns the land.

“The incense shovel discovered is one of the ten other shovel known to the country since the period of the Second Temple,” said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, chief archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Recent research in the world has shown that the incense shovel was used primarily for ceremonial purposes, care for the embers and incense that were burnt in ritual ceremonies. Since incense shovels have been found in the non-cultic context over the years, they have apparently also been used for daily purposes.

The incense shovel as it was found in the excavation

The incense shovel and jug found in our excavation were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the room, at the storehouses that is locate adjacent the dock of a large Jewish settlement, on the shore of Sea of Galilee, in the late Second Temple period.

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”.The Hebrew word for incense shovel is mahta, which is derived from the action of raking or gathering embers, and is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 27:1–3: “You shall make the altar…you shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans; all its utensils you shall make of bronze”.

A 2,200-year-old bronze incense shovel found at Magdala after cleaning

The mahta is thought to have been a sacred implement like the rest of the items that were utilized in the Temple where it was mainly used for transferring embers from place to place. 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, lulav and etrog.

According to Eyad Bisharat, who supervised the work in the excavation area on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “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”.In recent years the Israel Antiquities Authority has been leading extensive excavations at the site, overseen by the archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar, in partnership with the Anahuac University of Mexico, led by the Mexican Archaeologist, Dr. Marcela Zapata-Meza.

A 2,200-year-old bronze jug discovered in the excavation at Magdala

During the archaeological dig at Magdala, a Jewish settlement dating to the time of the Second Temple was exposed, uncovering, Jewish ritual baths (miqwe’ot), streets, a marketplace and industrial facilities, as well as a synagogue whose walls were decorated with colored plaster and mosaics floor along the pavement.

In the middle of the synagogue’s main hall a stone was uncovered, well-known as the Magdala Stone, depicting the Second Temple of Jerusalem, within a carved seven-branched menorah (candelabrum) on one of its sides ever founded. The synagogue is dated to the early first century CE, Second Temple Period and  Jesus’ Public Ministry around Galilee. The synagogue is one of the seventh oldest synagogues from this period uncovered so far in Israel.

According Arfan Najar, Archaeologist leading the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “A similar incense shovel and jug as those found here in Migdal were discovered by Yigael Yadin in a cache dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba 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”.

The excavation season was located alongside the pier of the large Jewish settlement of Magdala. Volunteers from Chile, Mexico, Italy and Spain came to Magdala in order to help and continue the excavations at the site. Next summer, a group of volunteers and students from Mexico will continue digging on the southern area of the site and restoring remains of discoveries along the excavations.

The stone with the menorah symbol which was discovered in the synagogue at Magdala

Magdala is already open daily to the public and visitors can tour the remains of a first century Jewish town and Duc In Altum, a new prayer center at the site. The site is considered as the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history for its historical and religious significance for Jews and Christians alike.

About Magdala

The site is located near the town of Migdal along the western shore of Sea of Galilee. Migdal (its Greek name is Taricheae, meaning “place where fish are salted” – possibly alluding to the main source of income of the city’s inhabitants 2,000 years ago) was a large Jewish settlement in the Early Roman period.

It is mentioned in Jewish sources, and at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple it served as Josephus’ main military base in his war against the Romans in the Galilee.

Evidence of Migdal’s existence is also found in historical and Christian sources, where according to Christian tradition this was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, the Apostle of the apostles of Jesus.

According to the Gospel of Luke, “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…”, follows Jesus until His crucifixion and according to John´s Gospel became the first witness of His resurrection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *