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Ancient Byzantine garbage pit yields priceless treasures

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Know the saying one man's trash is another man's treasure? This appears to be the case for a recent archaeological find, where hundreds of coins, lamps and even ancient gold jewelry have been found in a Byzantine garbage dump in Israel. Archaeologists say that the valuable items were all curiously discarded hundreds of years ago.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Inside the pit, archaeologists discovered precious artifacts, including a gold coin and three items inlaid with gold that adorned jewelry.

The scene of this most remarkable discovery is just outside the agricultural outskirts of the ancient city of Arsuf, also called Apollonia, just north of Tel Aviv. Archaeologists have found evidence of wine presses , olive presses and traces of buildings used by farmers. The far most intriguing finds have all come out of the Byzantine trash pits at the site.

Researchers Oren Tal of Tel Aviv University and Moshe Ajami of the Israel Antiquities Authority report that one of the garbage heaps was more than 98 feet in diameter and contained fragments of jars, cookware, tableware, glass vessels and animal bones.

It was amidst all this trash that they also found intact, useable artifacts.

"Among other things, more than four hundred coins were found which are mostly Byzantine, including one gold coin , as well as two hundred whole and intact Samaritan lamps (among them lamps that were never used), rings and gold jewelry," Tal and Ajami said in a statement.

"Noteworthy among the jewelry is an octagonal ring with parts of verses from the Samaritan Pentateuch engraved in Samaritan script on each of its sides (one side reads: Adonai is his name, another side: One God, and so on)," the researchers added.

In its heyday, Apollonia enjoyed more than 1,500 years of occupation, from the Persian period of the late sixth century B.C. through the end of the Crusader  period in the 13th century A.D.

It was during the late Byzantine period, in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries that the city was called Sozousa. The city's residents included both Christians and Samaritans. Previous excavations have revealed a church, plaster-lined pools dating back to this period. The new excavations, funded by the Israel Lands Administration, are taking place ahead of the expansion the city of Herzliya.

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