Archaeologists ‘astonished’: 1,700-year-old stone bears name of modern IDF base

“The preservation of the name is intriguing and astonishing,” said the excavation directors.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,700-year-old boundary stone near the Nafah army base in the central Golan Heights that surprisingly bears the Greek inscription “Kfar Nafah,” the village of Nafah.

“Usually, the ancient names are preserved as a result of settlement continuity, which preserves the ancient names from generation to generation,” said the excavation directors, Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

“However, such a settlement sequence did not exist at Nafah,” they said.

Except for a brief period of settlement during the Mamluk period (13th -15th centuries CE), the site appears to be largely uninhabited since the Byzantine period about 1,700 years ago.

The Nafah army base got its name from the Syrian village of Nafah, which was located nearby until the 1967 Six Day War.

“For this reason, the preservation of the name is intriguing and astonishing,” said the directors.

“But even more surprising is the boundary stone which was found in the village and on which is engraved the name of the village as it has been preserved to this day. This is a rare event,” they said.

“These stones were placed in the days of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (around 300 CE) as the boundaries of villages for the purpose of collecting taxes,” said Dr. Danny Syon of the IAA and Prof. Haim Ben-David of Kinneret Academic College.

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Syon and Ben-David said that this is the first boundary stone found in the center of the Golan on which appears a name that has been preserved to this day.

The boundary stone had been repurposed as the covering for a Byzantine grave that was discovered under a Mamluk road station.

Archaeologists believe the station served as a resting place for merchants and government representatives who traveled the main road between Safed and Damascus.

While the discovery reveals that the name Nafah is at least 1,700 years old, it may be far more ancient.

The Torah mentions a place named Nafah east of the Jordan River in Numbers 21:30.