The Land of Israel constantly reveals hidden treasures, testifying to its rich history and the Jewish People’s deep and long-lasting ties to its land. This time, archaeologists discovered an extraordinary 1,500-year-old mother-of-pearl tablet etched with a menorah in the ancient town of Caesarea.
Israeli archaeologists announced Wednesday the discovery of a 1,500-year-old mother-of-pearl tablet etched with a menorah in the ancient town of Caesarea.
Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) archaeologist Peter Gendelman said the tablet, dating back to the late Roman-Byzantine period of the 4th or 5th centuries CE, “points to clear Jewish presence at Caesarea during this period.”
Archaeologists speculate the pearl menorah tablet was likely part of a structure used to hold a Torah scroll. The slab was uncovered near the temple devoted to Augustus Caesar, constructed by King Herod in the 1st century BCE.
The discovery was made in early April, a few days before Passover, and was publicized as part of a press conference Wednesday regarding a new $30 million renovation project in Caesarea.
“This enormous project has unprecedented archaeological significance…The ancient Jewish past of [Caesarea], of Rabbi Akiva and the Ten Martyrs, is revealed before our very eyes,” said Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Rothschild Foundation, which funds the renovations.
Current archaeological excavations in Caesarea, which represent a continuation of excavations from the 1990s, have uncovered ancient artifacts and ruins dating back to the time of King Herod, 37–4 BCE, until the Crusader period, 1095-1291 CE.
The artifact is the first archaeological discovery of its kind made from mother-of-pearl, a smooth and shiny substance forming the inner layer of the shell of some mollusks.
This small Israeli coastal town was once the seat of the Roman power in the region, from which they ruled for several centuries.The town was built by Herod the Great at about 25–13 BCE as the port city Caesarea Maritima. At the time, Herod, the Roman ruler of Israel, was engaged in several ambitious architectural projects in Israel, including the mass renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Caesarea was one of them.
The Ancient Seat of Power
Caesarea served as the administrative center of the Roman province of Judea, which was part of the Roman Empire.
The new city was built to meet the requirements of a provincial capital, and included markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, imposing public buildings.
The city further served as a cultural center, and every five years the city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions in its theater overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The amphitheater and hippodrome still stand today.
During the Byzantine period, in the 3rd century, the city was chiefly a commercial center. Situated on the historic land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, Caesarea served as a relying point for trade coming in-land from the Mediterranean Sea and for export from the Far and Middle East to Europe.
Over the coming centuries, the city knew many lords and owners, but it did not return to its early splendor.
Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, the city had an Arab majority until the Crusader conquest and renovation of the city. The city was again abandoned after the Mamluk conquest.
Caesarea laid in ruins until the nineteenth century, when the village of Qisarya, the Arabic name for Caesarea, was established in 1884 by Bosniaks, immigrants from Bosnia, who built a small fishing village on the ruins of the Crusader fortress on the coast.
By: JNS.org and World Israel News Staff