Tel Aviv: An 1,800 year-old sarcophagus was discovered at a construction site in southern Israel’s coastal town of Ashkelon, Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Thursday.
The 1,800 year-old sarcophagus, which the IAA described as “rare and impressive”, was discovered by construction workers who unearthed it without notifying the IAA. They also actively tried hiding it from authorities, IAA said in a statement, adding that authorities will take legal action against them, Xinhua news agency reported.
In an overnight operation between Tuesday and Wednesday, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for Prevention of Antiquities Robbery along with Israeli police officers, followed an anonymous tip and reached the site of the sarcophagus, which according to experts is a rare discovery in Israel.
Authorities believe the contractors dug out the artifact themselves during last week. Police
The Sarcophagus is fashioned out of limestone, weighing two tonnes at two and a half metres long, with a life-sized human figure carved on its lid. Some of its stones and decorations were damaged.
Gabi Mazor, an IAA retired archaeologist and an expert on classical periods, said the image of the human on the lid looks Roman.
“Wreaths and images of bull’s heads, naked Cupids, the head of the monstrous female Medusa figure all decorate the sarcophagus. The female Medusa figure was believed by Romans to protect the deceased,” Mazor explained.
“Such sarcophagi were typically placed in or next to a family mausoleum. The high level of decoration attests to the family’s affluence, which judging by the depicted motifs, is not Jewish,” he added.