A woman has made the extraordinary discovery of two perfectly preserved 1,700-year-old Roman stone busts while hiking in northern Israel. She was first alerted to their presence when she noticed the heads of these busts firmly gazing at her from where they were buried in the ground.
According to the Jewish Press, immediately after the hiker had seen the Roman busts she and her husband swiftly contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Theft Prevention Unit, and archaeological investigators were immediately dispatched to the site. Once archaeologists had fully excavated the busts, they determined that they dated back to sometime between the 3rd and 4th centuries, which is also referred to as the Late Roman Period.
The Roman stone busts were then transported to the laboratory of the IAA so that archaeologists could make certain that the artifacts were preserved while they were studied, and IAA deputy head Dr. Eitan Klein explained that the busts had been fashioned out of limestone, with one of them depicting a man with a curly beard.
“These busts were made of local limestone and show unique facial features, details of clothing, and hairstyles. It seems that at least one of them depicts a bearded man.”
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As Dr. Klein also noted, Roman busts like the ones discovered in Israel were frequently deposited very close to burial caves and, as such, are believed to have most likely been depictions of loved ones who were deceased. Furthermore, other busts very similar to these have also been recovered in areas like Beit She’an and Jordan.
“Busts like these were usually placed near or in a burial cave, and they may have represented the image of the deceased. Similar busts have been found in the past in the Beit She’an area and in northern Jordan, but not one of them resembles another, and that’s the importance of these finds.”
The Roman busts were decorated in traditional Oriental style, which demonstrates how, during the Late Roman Period, artists were looking for inspiration beyond the Classical style which was previously all the rage, and developed much more localized styles.
“It seems that the busts were exposed following the recent heavy rainfall in the area. These are very important finds, which tell us a great deal about the inhabitants of the Beth She’an area in antiquity,” notes IAA inspector Nir Distelfeld.
With the new discovery of these two 1,700-year-old Roman stone busts in Israel, archaeologists will be able to learn even more about the great history of this land and those who have come before, through the dedicated work of the artisans who designed the busts.