Gordon Tours Israel Blog

Traveling through time: New Archeological Discoveries in Israel

Icon August 13, 2023
Icon By Shai Navon
Icon 0 comments

It often seems that in Israel, an ancient archeological finding is only a stone’s throw away. And this stone could, in fact, be an ancient relic as well – that’s just how much archeology can be found underneath the Holy Land.

That might be hyperbole, but the rate of archeological discoveries in Israel is staggering. And the stories behind some of them are almost as compelling as the findings themselves.

One Israeli family found an artistic Byzantine lighting candle during their Shabbat walk, scientists found traces of the tsunami that destroyed Caesarea, archeologists located the factory that prepared the regal priestly cloth, and a police raid seized coins from the last independent Judean king era. And these are but a sample.

Each of these archeological findings shed another light about the world in which they were made and used, allowing us to travel through time for a brief moment.

Finding an ancient Byzantine relic on your family walk

One curious family from the charming town of Tzur Yitzhak, spotted a small clay face peering up at them from the ground during their Shabbat walk. They wasted no time and immediately got in touch with the Israel Antiquities Authority, which called it a “photogenic” discovery. That’s because, hold onto your sandals, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill shard: it’s a fragment of a Byzantine candle holder from the 6th or 7th century CE. And not just a generic candle holder either- it’s a stylish one!

These clay lanterns lit up homes and lives, and were more integral to people’s lives than lamps and light bulbs are for us today. WIth intricate designs decorating its handle, this discovery felt like finding the holy grail of ancient lighting – functional yet fabulous. Take a look at this stunning finding here.

Scientists uncover evidence of tsunami in ancient Israel

The ancient city of Caesarea Maritima was bustling with life and ambition, until it was swept away by the wrath of nature. But hold on – this tale doesn’t end in despair. It’s a story of rebuilding, resilience, and the lessons that history offers.

Flashback to the early medieval era when Caesarea was a thriving hub, embracing commerce and culture. Then came a fateful day, marked by an earthquake that rattled the Levant in 749 CE. To make matters worse, the earthquake was followed by a colossal tsunami that surged forth and completely reshaped the destiny of Caesarea.

Fast forward to today: researchers from the University of Haifa have uncovered many findings that offer us an opprotunity to learn more about the history of Caesarea, as well as help predict and prepare for future natural disasters. It is a window into the past that lets us witness how ancient civilizations coped with nature’s fury. 

Decades later, the area was repopulated by the Abbasid Caliphate. They didn’t just build anew; they wove their lives back over the ruins, creating a living testament to human tenacity.

This saga reminds us that adversity is no match for human determination. Whether it’s a city or an entire society, the key is to embrace the future, even in the face of “cataclysmic” events.

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3,000-year-old Haifa factory Prepared Holy Temple objects from snail guts

Remains of industrial buildings on the site, which were probably used to create the argaman color (Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

At the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, curtains and priestly robes were famously purple, and researchers recently traced the factory that produced them 3,000 years ago.

A bustling dye factory on the shores of modern-day Haifa meticulously processed sea snails to extract their rich scarlet, purple, and sapphire pigments. These humble mollusks, commonly known as rock snails or murex, held within them the secret to creating the coveted purple dye that would adorn curtains, robes, and the regal elite of ancient Jerusalem.

The color, known as argaman (purple) and techelet (blue) in the Hebrew Bible, was extracted from a gland within the rock snails, and it has an intensity that could endure for millennia. Yes, that’s right – fibers dyed three millennia ago have retained their vibrant allure to this day!

This revelation, freshly brought to light at the Tel Shiqmona site, paints a vivid picture of how the Israelites might have asserted their power over the dye factory, perhaps even wresting it from the Phoenicians. The goal? To harness the power of this luxurious dye, not just for its color but for the wealth it could create for their burgeoning empire.

See the new discovery here.

Rare Coin from Last Hasmonean King Seized in Police Raid

Photo: Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the heart of East Jerusalem, a hidden trove of history has come to light. In an overnight operation, police recovered a collection of ancient coins, revealing a vivid mosaic of times long gone. These coins, suspected to have been illegally excavated, hold within them stories of empires, rulers, and an elusive connection to our past.

Among these fragments of time is a coin that stands out, dating back over 2,000 years to the reign of the last Hasmonean king of Judea, Antigonus Mattathias II. The coin is more than a simple currency – it’s a relic that whispers tales of power and heritage. Minted from bronze, it features a cornucopia – a symbol of abundance – with a Hebrew inscription that reads “Mattia Kohen Gadol,” denoting his royal status as a Hasmonean king and High Priest. On the other side, a Greek inscription is encircled by a wreath, a testament to the merging of cultures.

But these coins aren’t just about their design; they are relics of craftsmanship and history. Mattathias’s coins hold secrets of their creation. Before being stamped with intricate designs, they were cast in double limestone molds, resulting in a coin that seems like two seamlessly fused together. This distinctive technique sets these coins apart.

Here is the seized coin.


As these relics find their way back into the hands of those who study them, they serve as a testament to the unending pursuit of history’s hidden truths, even if it means traveling through time to uncover them.


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