One of the problems faced by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is the illegal looting of archaeological sites all over the country. The IAA has a special unit for catching antique looters. Lately their activity has been geographically restrained due to the new peace accord with the Palestinians. The peace accord made many sites in Gaza, Judea and Samaria inaccessible to supervise. As a visitor I have witnessed famous and important sites being severely damaged by looting, usually by the local inhabitants. Jericho for instance is being torn to pieces, its bricks sold to tourists by local children. The Jerusalem aqueduct too is being ruined by private construction. And last month I was presented in a University seminar meeting with photos of a recently looted Hellenistic cave in western Judean hills. These are just the problems I have seen for myself, and it appears to me that many the sites in eastern Judea and Samaria are being looted.
And recently the department of the IAA responsible for the prevention of looting presented the results of another capture of antiquities looters, although their loot was retrieved from a surprising source. A hoard of artifacts was found in the homes of five members of a scuba diving club in Ashkelon. After two months of surveillance, it was clear that diving each weekend off the shore resulted in looting of antiquities, and their “harvest” decorated their homes. After documentation of their activities, the IAA pressed charges against the divers and confiscated the finds. The finds assessed were recently presented at IAA headquarters in the Rockefeller Museum inJerusalem.
Boaz Zissu, head of the department in the IAA responsible for preventing looting, invited the media and presented all the finds to the reporters. The finds were typical of marine excavations, but some artifacts were unique and well-preserved. The most peculiar objects were a clay altar from a ship, and oval clay bowl, possibly a model of the boat made for ritual use.
Goliath’s Tomb Discovered?
At the last conference held at the College of Judah and Samaria,in, Mr. Eli Shenhav of the Jewish National Fund presented a unique find from Hurvat khanot. The site,10 km south-west of Hebron, is along the Roman road from Eleutropolis (modern Bet-Guvrin) to Jerusalem. In Biblical times, this area was the border between the Israelites and the Philistines. The battle between David and Goliath took place nearby.
During the Byzantine period, it was customary to identify different sites with places mentioned in the Bible. Sources from that period, mainly in the form of descriptions written by pilgrims of the time, mention a large mound of stones in this area, and identified it as the burial place of Goliath after he was slain by David. Excavations atHurvat khanot revealed a small site consisting of a church, a roadside inn, and a small wine press. These are features common in Byzantine period rural settlements.
But west of the church excavators noticed a big pile of stones, forming an artificial mound. Is this the reputed site of Goliath’s tomb? We will have to wait for the deciphering of the mosaic inscription found in the church for more clues, but I will keep you posted!.