4,500-year-old burial artifacts chanced upon by electrician on his way to work
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ArchaeologyLucky find includes bronze blade and intact pottery vessels

4,500-year-old burial artifacts chanced upon by electrician on his way to work

Ahmad Nassar Yassin, a resident of the northern Israel village of Araba, discovers remains of a previously unknown Canaanite-era settlement

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Ahmed Nassar Yassin with 4,500-year-old artifacts he discovered in a burial cave near Araba in northern Israel. (Nir Distelfeld/Israel Antiquities Authority)
Ahmed Nassar Yassin with 4,500-year-old artifacts he discovered in a burial cave near Araba in northern Israel. (Nir Distelfeld/Israel Antiquities Authority)

A previously unknown center of Canaanite-era settlement was recently stumbled upon by a curious electrician on his way to work. A 4,500-year-old copper dagger blade and a collection of intact pottery containers were discovered by Ahmad Nassar Yassin, a resident of the northern Israel village of Araba, who noted something out of the ordinary while he was driving to service a local customer.

“When I identified something unusual on the mountain ridge close to the dirt road, I stopped to check it out. The minute I touch the boulder it crumbled and, in front of my eyes, ancient-looking containers appeared,” said Yassin.

Concerned about damage to the artifacts due to their unplanned exposure, Yassin moved the items to his home and immediately reported his finds to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Shortly thereafter Nir Distelfeld, an IAA Theft Prevention Unit inspector, retrieved them from Yassin and realized they came from a burial cave. Yassin was awarded a certificate of good citizenship.

According to an IAA press release, the items include northern-style 4,500-year-old storage jars and pouring vessels, as well as the bronze dagger blade, which would have been attached to a wooden handle. As was typical of the era, the artifacts, most likely including foodstuffs, were meant to accompany the occupant of the burial cave on his way to the afterlife.

4,500-year-old artifacts discovered in a burial cave near Araba in northern Israel. (Nir Distelfeld/Israel Antiquities Authority)

In conversation with The Times of Israel on Wednesday, Distelfeld commended Yassin’s reporting of the ancient artifacts to the IAA and said he hoped it would spur more cooperation with Arab communities, which are not aware enough of IAA’s work in preserving the heritage of all cultures and civilizations who settled in the Levant.

Yassin’s finds point to a previously unknown settlement in the specific area, said Distelfeld. There are many known settlements in the Western Galilee area, but in Araba no one had yet discovered habitation of the village dating back to 2,500 BCE.

“The burial cave discovered by Ahmed by chance has revealed to us a previously unknown period for the research of this area, and in his conscientious decision [to report the finds] he has contributed to the archaeological puzzle of the Land of Israel,” said Distelfeld in the IAA’s press release.

Area in Araba, northern Israel, where 4,500-year-old artifacts were discovered in a burial cave. (Nir Distelfeld/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Since there is frequent construction in Araba, Distelfeld told The Times of Israel, the IAA will perform a new survey of the area based on Yassin’s discovery of the burial cave and send more inspectors to the field to supervise while roadworks are taking place.

The burial cave itself, said Distelfeld, is destroyed and no further excavation is planned. Distelfeld has offered the ancient items to the village municipality to put on display, but has not yet received a response. In the meantime, the items will be held by the state.

In terms of his motivations for reporting the find, Yassin said in an IAA video that from the first second he laid eyes on the pottery, he understood he was dealing with historical artifacts.

“I passed them on to the people who could properly treat them. I’m hopeful that people will begin to understand that one day, everything that is discovered and everything that we’ll learn from historical artifacts, will serve all peoples, from all backgrounds,” said Yassin.

Ahmed Nassar Yassin with 4,500-year-old artifacts he discovered in a burial cave near Araba in northern Israel. (Nir Distelfeld/Israel Antiquities Authority)
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