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Roman-era Sword Uncovered in Ancient Ditch in Jerusalem

The Media Line (Link) - Arieh O�Sullivan (August 8, 2011)

Like a postcard sent from the battle ground, a Roman sword, still in its leather-bound wooden scabbard, was unearthed in a Jerusalem ditch where it had apparently lain since the revolt that destroyed the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron told The Media Line it was a rare find and the only one that could definitely be linked to the Great Revolt by the Jews against the Romans in August 70 A.D.

The discovery was even more symbolic for the archaeologists since it came just a day before Jews mark the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of the Jewish Month of Av, which falls on August 9.

The iron sword was discovered in a dig carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem�s ancient drainage channel that ran from the site of the ancient Temple through the City of David to the Siloam Pool.

Shukron said they found it while excavating silt from the channel that had once been used to collect rain water, but that later served as a hiding place for Jewish rebels fighting the Romans. Parts of the belt were found too, including two iron rings, and some decoration. Over time, the 60 cm iron blade became fused with the wood and leather.

�I believe it was in the hands of the rebels but it was obviously of the type that belonged to the Roman centurions in Jerusalem. It was probably taken from the garrison in 66 A.D. when they took over the city and the rebels used it,� Shukron told The Media Line.

According to Josephus, the historian of the Roman conquest of the city, forces searched for rebel holdouts in a drainage channel that led from the Temple Mount to the Siloam pool.

�We found (the sword) intact inside its scabbard and it was likely used in battles. But in the end it was left in a ditch when they fled. Maybe they dropped it,� Shukron said.

�We aren�t finding these things often. This sword connects us to the revolt and it is the first one that we found that is so clearly connected to the destruction. It tells us that these things really happened and that the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was not just a story,� he added. �It was a sword that was used a real one a weapon. It is very important and it takes us to the destruction.�

Together with the sword, archaeologists also discovered a stone which someone had engraved with a drawing of the Temple�s famous menorah, or candelabrum. The hastily scratched drawing was believed to have been made by a worshipper who had been moved after viewing the menorah inside the temple, archaeologists reckoned.

�Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah�s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped,� said Prof. Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa who also directed the digs.

Shukron speculated that the artist had probably tossed his stone aside after incising his impression of the menorah, only to be seen again 2,000 years later.

�Just think,� Shukron said. �The person who carved this actually saw it with his own eyes and he is sending us a message that says: �I was here. I have seen it and I am carving it.� He must have been excited. The next time someone sees this turns out to be two thousand years in the future. This is like a postcard from the past.�

It was in this same drainage channel that archaeologists last month discovered a gold bell which they believe may have been sewn onto the robe of a Second Temple priest. �

Archaeology ~ Israel