Photo Credit: Sara Tal, Israel Antiquities Authority
Lt. Col. (Res.) and IAA archaeologist Yair Amitzur with the basalt mortar

Soldiers of the 143rd Division in the Gaza Strip have discovered a complete, large-size, ancient mortar that was used for grinding wheat. The soldiers, one of whom works as an archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, handed over the find to the state’s treasures for preservation.

On December 26, we reported about two other soldiers stationed in Gaza who discovered an ancient oil candle from the Byzantine period (Soldiers Discover 1,500-Year-Old Candle in Gaza Envelope Troops Staging Area).

Major (Res.) Elyashiv Bohbut with the basalt mortar. / Yair Amitzur, Israel Antiquities Authority

Lt. Col. (Res.) Yair Amitzur, the commander of the civilian frontline in the 143rd Division, and Major (Res.) Elyashiv Bohbut discovered the basalt mortar which weighs more than 10 kg.

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

The basalt mortar. / Sara Tal, Israel Antiquities Authority

“Basalt is prevalent in the north of the country and other remote areas,” explained Yair. “In light of that, it is clear that the tool we found was brought here from a distance, and was probably used in the past in the home of one of the residents of the area to grind grain or other produce, using a pestle.”

“We were excited to suddenly receive a greeting from the past and deal with good news for a change,” recalled Yair. “The tool reminds us that throughout the generations the Western Negev served as a significant settlement area, where a variety of cultures settled. Wars took place here in the past, but settlement always returned eventually and the area flourished again.”

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