Ancient ship, animal etchings found in Beersheba

The 2,000-year-old illustrations of ships and animals were found in a huge water cistern at an archaeological dig.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israel Antiquities Authority has discovered a Roman-era water cistern in the southern city of Beersheba decorated with drawings of several ships, a sailor and animals, Israel Hayom reported Thursday.

The reservoir, measuring about 5.5 meters round and 12 meters deep, had been plastered to keep water from escaping, which some artist or artists from long ago used as a canvas on which to trace images of over a dozen sailing vessels, among the other etchings.

1st-2nd Century

Dr. Davida Eisenberg-Dagan, an expert in engraving and rock art at the antiquities authority, who is in charge of the dig along with Avishai Levy-Hevroni, dated the find to the first or second century.

“As soon as we started cleaning away all the mud and sand that had collected and filled the pit, we saw lines etched in the walls, in the plaster,” she said. “We start looking, and suddenly identify a ship. We keep looking, and find more lines, another ship, and another. … Until we have thirteen ships – Roman ships.”

The etchings weren’t the work of children, Eisenberg-Dagan said, “They reflect a knowledge of a ship’s structure, there’s technical understanding here. … This is someone who really knew – maybe he worked on ships, did business or built [them].”

Read  NEW DISCOVERY: Was Jerusalem a major city during the Iron Age?

But they are not functional drawings, she noted, nor were they in a place where people would come appreciate the artwork. “It’s really just the urge of a person who wanted to draw, and this is the result,” she said.

The cistern was evidently used by a village that was also uncovered less than a kilometer away, she said.

The dig is taking place as part of the Beersheba municipality’s plan to establish a new neighborhood in the area.

The find will be cleaned, preserved, and opened to the public, joining other local attractions like the Tel Beersheba National Park, an archaeological site believed to be the remains of the biblical town where Abraham lived.

The dig was initiated and financed by the Beersheba Economic Development Company.