“Once-in-a-lifetime” Discovery: Rameses II-era Burial Cave Found in Israel


At least one intact skeleton was also found in two rectangular plots in the cave.


Israeli archaeologists on Sunday announced the “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery of a burial cave from the time of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II, filled with dozens of pottery pieces and bronze artifacts.

The cave was discovered on a beach on Tuesday, when a mechanical excavator working in Palmahim National Park hit its roof, with archaeologists using a ladder to descend into the spacious, man-made square cave.

In a video released by the Israel Antiquities Authority, baffled archaeologists shine flashlights on dozens of pottery jars of various shapes and sizes, dating back to the reign of the ancient Egyptian king who died in 1213 BC.

Inside the cave were bowls – some painted red, others with bones – chalices, cooking pots, stockpots, lamps, and bronze arrowheads or spearheads.

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The artifacts were burial offerings to accompany the dead on their final journey to the afterlife, found untouched since they were placed there about 3,300 years ago.

At least one relatively intact skeleton was also found in two rectangular plots in the corner of the cave.

“The cave can provide a complete picture of Late Bronze Age burial customs,” said Eli Yannai, an IAA Bronze Age expert.

It’s an “extremely rare…once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Yannai said, pointing to the cave’s additional fortune that has remained sealed until its recent discovery.

– ‘Like an Indiana Jones movie’ –

The findings date back to the reign of Rameses II, who was in control of Canaan, an area roughly encompassing modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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The provenance of the pottery vessels — Cyprus, Lebanon, northern Syria, Gaza and Jaffa — testifies to the “vibrant trading activity that took place along the coast,” Yannai said in an IAA statement.

Another IAA archaeologist, David Gelman, theorized about the identity of the skeletons in the cave, located in what is today a popular beach in central Israel.

“The fact that these people were buried along with weapons, including whole arrows, shows that maybe these people were warriors, maybe they were guards on ships – which was perhaps why they were able to obtain ships from all over the area,” he said. .

Regardless of who the cave’s inhabitants were, the find was “incredible,” Gelman said.

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“Funeral caves are rare as it is, and finding a cave that hasn’t been touched since it was first used 3,300 years ago is something you’ll rarely find,” he said.

“It feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie: just go into the ground and everything is there as it was initially – intact pottery vessels, weapons, vessels made of bronze, burials as they were.”

The cave has been resealed and is under surveillance while an excavation plan is being drawn up, the IAA said.

It noted that “a few items” had been looted in the short time between its discovery and closure.

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