Photo by Ilon Glick on 7 January, 2024

Israeli Reservists Unearth 1,900 Year-Old Byzantine Vessel

Public By Pesach Benson • 7 January, 2024

Jerusalem, 7 January, 2024 (TPS) -- In a remarkable discovery, Israeli reserve soldiers on routine patrol near a Gaza border staging area stumbled upon a Byzantine era vessel used for grinding grain, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday.

Made of basalt and weighing more than 10 kg, the vessel was found by Lt. Col. Yair Amitsur and Lt.-Col. Eliashiv Bohbot.

Amitsur commands the civilian front in the IDF’s Division 143. Coincidentally, he also works as an archaeologist and tour guide for the Antiquities Authority. Bohbot serves as the division’s second rabbi.

“As part of the routine field patrols in the Gaza envelope, our eye was caught by a pile of soil on the side of the road, from which a round basalt block stood out,” Bohbot said. “We pulled the block out and it turned out that it was a rather large and heavy vessel. Yair, who now works as an archaeologist at the Antiquities Authority, immediately recognized that it was a mortar – an ancient grinding tool.”

Amitsur explained, “This discovery is exceptional, considering the presence of basalt, a material typically found in northern regions or distant areas. The mortar was likely transported here and was once used within a local resident’s home for grinding grains or other produce, operated with a heavy pole called an ‘ali.'”

Mortars of the type found now were usually used for grinding and grinding dry products such as grains and lentils. The grinding tools, which allowed, among other things, the preparation of flour, which was a popular commodity, were common in homes, while in industrial areas millstones were used to grind quantities of flour greatness, according to the Antiquities Authority.

The Byzantines ruled the land of Israel from 313-636 CE.

Said Amitsur, “The tool reminds us that throughout the generations, the Western Negev served as a significant settlement area, where a variety of cultures settled. There were also wars in the past, but in the end, settlements always returned and the area returned to flourish.”

The grinding vessel was transferred to the Authority’s Sara Tal.

“The land of Israel – and in particular the surrounding area, is saturated with history and ancient findings, and the Antiquities Authority cooperates with the IDF in order to preserve them even in a war situation,” Eli Eskosido, director of the Antiquities Authority.