While the etchings may be quite faint after 2,000 years, archaeologists have discovered 13 drawings of ships quietly tucked away in a cistern deep in the desert of southern Israel in the city of Tel Be’er Sheva. This city was named a total of 33 times in the Bible and it is thought that its existence extends at least back to the start of the Iron Age.
According to Live Science, archaeologists discovered the etchings of the 13 ships during ongoing excavations for the construction of a newly planned neighborhood in the vicinity after noticing a strange looking depression in the ground that they eventually found was a cistern, used thousands of years ago for the safe storing of water.
The cistern was measured and found to stretch 16 feet by 18 feet in length, while running 40 feet deep, with stairs still standing which led directly to it. It was here that archaeologists working with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) first stumbled upon the Biblical-era etchings of the 13 ships, one sailor and figures of animals called zoomorphs.
As Haaretz reported, IAA rock-art specialist Davida Eisenberg-Degen noted that the drawings of the ships in the Israeli desert were extremely intricate and detailed, specifically showing ships as they would have appeared 2,000 years ago.
“The details are strikingly accurate. For instance, the mast is drawn going to the floor of the boat, shows understanding of shipbuilding technique. Ropes are shown near the mast and further away, holding the mast in place, all technical details that show understanding. I wouldn’t have considered that the mast needs to go down to the ship’s base if I didn’t know boat construction.”
The archaeologists were able to date the drawings by studying the plastering and hewing of the stairs that led to the cistern, along with the way the reservoir was built, and determined that the cistern, and thus the etchings of the ships, would most likely have been made sometime between the 1st and 2nd century CE.
— Live Science (@LiveScience) November 13, 2018
Once the dating of the cistern and drawings was established, archaeologists noted that the area would have been in use during the time that Rome controlled and ruled Israel. In fact, just 2,600 feet away from the cistern are the remains of an ancient Roman settlement.
The IAA believe that it is fully possible that this cistern may even have been used up until very recently, although archaeologists at this time are unclear as to when it may have fallen out of use. However, they did unearth ammo shells and other objects that they were able to date back to World War I.
Because of the exciting discovery of the 13 etchings of ships that were found in the cistern in the Israeli desert, authorities have said that it will be preserved and set apart from the new housing development.