Photo Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority
Faience amulets depicting images of Egyptian gods.

Israeli archaeologists proved Wednesday there was a good reason for God sending the Jews on that 40-year stroll around the desert after all.

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Amir Ganor told journalists at a briefing in Jerusalem Wednesday, “The Israelites left Egypt; however, it seems that even years after their return, Egypt did not leave the Israelites and their descendants.”

A collection of artifacts with characteristics of the Egyptian culture which were discovered in the southern Israel excavation.
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The briefing was held just two days before the start of the week-long holiday of Passover that commemorates the Exodus. Ganor used the opportunity to reveal unique archaeological finds attesting to the existence of an Egyptian administrative center in the region 3,400 years ago.

The archaeologist has spent the past year directing an excavation in a cave near Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel, in the Tel Halif region.

While in the area, the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery identified an underground cave in which there were signs of plundering. Inspectors discovered that antiquities thieves had broken into the cave and stolen 3,000-year-old pottery vessels, disturbing ancient archaeological strata in the process.

The IAA officials thwarted further damage to the cave and carried out a salvage operation to save the remaining artifacts and other extremely valuable archaeological information.

The excavation revealed evidence dating back to the late Bronze Age (1500 BCE) and the Iron Age (1000 BCE), including more than 300 pottery vessels of different types – some of which were still intact.

An oil lamp and a ceramic jar that date to the Iron Age, which were discovered in the cave.

Also found were dozens of pieces of jewelry made of bronze, shells and faience, unique vessels fashioned from yellowish alabaster, seals, seal impressions and cosmetic vessels – all of which had been placed in the cave and accumulated there for decades.

A ring that was discovered in the excavation which is inlaid with a seal depicting an Egyptian
warrior holding a shield and sword.

“Among the many artifacts that were discovered, most of which are characteristic of the Judahite culture in the south of the country, we found dozens of stone seals, some of which are shaped in the form of a winged beetle (scarabs) and bear carved symbols and images typical of the Egyptian culture which prevailed in the country in the Late Bronze Age. Some of the seals were fashioned on semi-precious stones that come from Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula,” said Ganor, who heads the IAA’s unit for the prevention of antiquities robbery.

“It is true the Israelites left Egypt, but the evidence from the excavation in the cave shows the Egyptians did not leave the Israelites and their descendants. This has been attested to in archaeological excavations where we uncovered evidence from many years after the “Exodus” which reflects the influence of Egyptian culture on the Judahite residents of the country,” Ganor said.

Some of the objects were produced in Egypt itself, and were brought to Canaan by the Israelites or merchants. Others were made in the country using methods imitating Egyptian production techniques and copying Egyptian cultural motifs, while using indigenous raw materials, according to the IAA.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.