Sharp-eyed Israeli first grader finds rare 3500-year-old tablet

Imri Elya saw the object lying on the ground at Tel Jemmeh while on a family excursion.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A sharp-eyed 6-year-old boy made a rare archeological find when trekking with his family on an ancient tel in March, Ynet reported Monday.

Walking around Tel Jemmeh near his home in Kibbutz Nirim, one of the villages around the Gaza Strip, Imri Elya spied on the ground a tiny square, clay plaque with two images on it. The tiny figures are clearly an aristocratic captor using a stick-like object to control a prisoner, who is naked, with his arms shackled behind him.

Imri’s parents immediately realized the importance of the find and called the Israel Antiquities Authority. After careful examination, the Authority determined that the 2.8 x 2.8 cm tablet was fashioned in the late Bronze Age, between the 15th and 12th century BCE, making it some 3,500 years old. They based their estimation on the similarity of the images on the piece to Egyptian and Canaanite artwork found from that time period.

Sa’ar Ganor, the archaeologist in charge of the Ashkelon region for the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained that this was an age where city-states such as Gaza and Ashkelon fought each other as well as nomadic tribes in the region. The site of Tel Jemmeh is identified as another of these mini-countries, a powerful Canaanite city called Yursa that ancient Egyptian sources note as one of the places its empire captured during its control of the whole sector.


Tablet found by Imir Elia (IAA)

The artist, who used an engraved mold to form the piece and left behind his ancient fingerprint on its back, may have been depicting a not uncommon piece of real life in his day.

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“The scene depicted on the tablet is taken from descriptions of victory parades,” said Ganor and several fellow researchers in a statement. “The new finding seems to open a visual window to understand the power struggles in the south of the country during the Canaanite period.”

The IAA gave young Elya a framed certificate of appreciation in gratitude for turning over the important find.

Tel Jemmeh occupies a strategic location along an ancient trade route about 12 km south of the Gaza Strip, along the Besor Stream. It is most known for containing a huge Assyrian structure that might have been a palace, dating from the time the Assyrian empire captured the Kingdom of Israel during the eighth century, BCE.