Construction workers building a new animal hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari Park rediscovered two 1,800-year-old sarcophagi that had been initially dug up and moved when a parking lot was built at the site.
Safari workers who had been at the park at the time of the initial discovery said the coffins were originally discovered 25 years ago and were moved to the area near the new hospital.
Over the course of the years, the sarcophagi were buried under sand and thick vegetation and were forgotten.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, contractors had started digging last week as part of the initial work on the wildlife medical center when they noticed the two coffins jutting out of the soil.
Experts said that the ornate nature of the coffins meant they were probably for people with high social status during the Roman period.
“They are two matching coffins. They are decorated identically with garlands and disks,” said Uzi Rothstein of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit. “We are talking about coffins from 200-300 CE from the Roman Period. They were probably made for a husband and wife.”
The sarcophagi were believed to be carved from stone quarried locally but were imitations of the prestigious sarcophagi made of Proconnesian marble from the Turkish island of Marmara.
The IAA said the decorative discs on the coffins were presumably designed to protect and accompany the soul on its journey to the afterlife, and garlands were a traditional decoration for the coffins.
“Between the garlands are oval blanks, which the archaeologists believe were originally intended to be filled with a customary grape-cluster motif, but for some unknown reason the work remained unfinished,” the authority said in a statement.