Ancient tablet unearthed at historic Roman excavation site in Israel

"Possibly a gift for independence day," an Israeli scientist said of the find, acknowledging the nation's historical anniversary next month.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Updated April 26, 2017 at 9:19 PM
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April 26 (UPI) -- Archaeologists made a significant find at an ancient Roman temple site in north central Israel recently -- a mother-of-pearl tablet scientists believe was part of a box that contained a biblical Hebrew scroll.

Experts believe the artifact, found at the ancient Roman city of Caesarea, is about 1,500 years old.

"A small tablet decorated with the shape of a menorah was found in a Persian layer inside inside the vaults here," Ze'ev Margalit, director of conservation and development for the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, said as Israel approaches its 69th anniversary of its independence on May 14.

"Possibly a gift for independence day," he said. "We have the symbol of the State of Israel and a coal pan and a shofar, which represent for us the Jewish heritage over the years here."

It is inscribed with a six-branched menorah, the Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

The item, believed to be the first made of the valuable material and branded with Jewish iconography, was found near the Augusteum Roman temple with other artifacts by Israel's Antiquities Authority in a $27 million restoration project at Caesarea.

"We're making new discoveries on a daily basis," Israeli archaeologist Peter Gendelman said.

Scientists said the tablet was probably part of a box that contained a Sefer Torah scroll, which is believed to have contained the first five books of the Old Testament.

"Every time you find something, it's really inspirational," Inbal Perry, a third year architecture student at Tel Aviv University, said. "It's amazing to discover things so ancient."

The ancient site in Caesarea, located 60 miles northwest of Jerusalem, is the only Israeli locality owned and managed by a private organization, not the government. It's believed Caesarea Maritima was built between 10 and 20 BC.

"Caesarea doesn't cease to surprise us," Margalit added.

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