Israeli archaeologists announced on Sunday the “once in a lifetime” discovery of a burial cave dating back to the era of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, filled with dozens of pottery and bronze artifacts.
The cave was unearthed on the beach on Tuesday, when a mechanical excavator working in Palmheim National Park hit its roof, as archaeologists used a ladder to descend into the vast, man-made square cave.
In a video released by the Israel Antiquities Authority, stunned archaeologists throw torches at dozens of pottery vessels of various shapes and sizes, dating back to the era of the ancient Egyptian king who died in 1213 BC.
Utensils – some painted red, some with bones – cups, cooking utensils, storage utensils, lamps, arrowheads or bronze spearheads can be seen in the cave.
The objects were burial offerings to accompany the deceased on his final journey to the afterlife, and have been untouched since they were placed there some 3,300 years ago.
At least one relatively intact skeleton was found in two rectangular cuts in the corner of the cave.
“The cave may provide a complete picture of the late Bronze Age burial customs,” said Eli Yani, a Bronze Age expert at the American Archaeological Institute.
It’s “extremely rare…a once-in-a-lifetime find,” Yanni said, noting the additional wealth of the cave, which remained closed until its recent discovery.
– ‘Like an Indiana Jones movie’ –
The findings date back to the reign of Rameses II, who controlled Canaan, an area roughly comprising modern Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In a statement issued by the Antiquities Authority, Yanai said the source of the pottery – Cyprus, Lebanon, northern Syria, Gaza and Jaffa – is testimony to the “vigorous commercial activity that took place along the coast.”
Another archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, David Gilman, has theorized about the identity of the skeletons in the cave, which is located on what is today a famous beach in central Israel.
“The fact that these people were buried with weapons, including full arrows, shows that these people may have been warriors, and may have been guards on board — and that is probably why they were able to get ships from all over the region,” he said. .
Regardless of who the cave dwellers were, Gilman said, the discovery was “unbelievable.”
“Burial caves are rare as they are, and finding one that hasn’t been touched since it was first used 3,300 years ago is something you rarely ever find,” he said.
“It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones movie: just go to the ground and everything lies there as it was at the beginning – intact pottery, weapons, ships made of bronze, burials just as they were.”
The Antiquities Authority said the cave had been re-sealed and guarded while a plan was being drawn up to excavate it.
He noted that “some items” were looted from it in the short period of time between its discovery and its closure.