Look what the rain swept in: Families find 1,500-year-old jug during hike
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Look what the rain swept in: Families find 1,500-year-old jug during hike

Discovered near the Beit She'an National Park, intact container likely used to hold wheat and legumes for burial ritual

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

  • Yotam Arieli (right) and his uncle Idan Avidor with the Byzantine-era jug discovered in the Beit She'an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)
    Yotam Arieli (right) and his uncle Idan Avidor with the Byzantine-era jug discovered in the Beit She'an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)
  • Byzantine-period jug which was found during a family hike in the Beit She'an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)
    Byzantine-period jug which was found during a family hike in the Beit She'an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)
  • The ruins of Beit Shean, ancient Scythopolis (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
    The ruins of Beit Shean, ancient Scythopolis (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

When the Avidor and Armon families set off for a hike this week in the Nahal Harod river bed in the Beit She’an National Park, they were likely expecting to enjoy the greenery and perhaps see some wildflowers. But the nature walk became a lot more memorable after children Nir and Matan spotted something unusual made out of clay.

Nir from Nir David was one of the first to spot the Byzantine-era jug during a family hike in Beit She’an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)

“We were hiking and stopped to rest on a slope. All of a sudden, we noticed a kind of ‘ear,’ which was the clay handle protruding from the earth,” said mother Tamar Armon. “We were surprised and excited to discover a complete, heavy and beautiful pot.”

As archaeology enthusiasts, they had taken note of the signposts along the route, which stated that pottery from 1,500 years ago had been found in the area.

“And here, we too were able to discover for ourselves such a 1,500-year-old finding,” said Armon.

The Beit She’an area is well-known for its archaeological richness. The national park showcases one of Israel’s most spectacular tourist sites, with well-preserved Roman and Byzantine-era ruins, including an impressive 2nd century CE theater, roadway, mosaics and bathhouse.

According to Nir Distelfeld, head of the Israel Antiquity Authority’s theft prevention unit in the northern region, the strong weekend rains in the Beit She’an region must have turned up earth at the vessel’s site of origin.

Matan from Nir David was one of the first to spot the Byzantine-era jug during a family hike in Beit She’an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)

“It is natural for artifacts to emerge to the surface and send greetings from the past,” said Distelfeld.

Despite the temptation to dig up any findings, Distelfeld emphasized that “it is of utmost importance to report such antiquities finds immediately and to leave them in their locations so that archaeologists may be able to mine the most historical information from the location.”

According to IAA archaeologist Dr. Walid Artash, the Byzantine jar, preserved in its entirety since the 6th-7th centuries CE, was used in ancient times to store wheat and legumes.

“Not far from the area is a known magnificent church and an ancient cemetery, and it is quite possible that the pitcher was placed in one of the tombs as part of the ritual practices of the dead, and was swept into the area with time,” said Artash.

The families turned over the jug to the state and will be awarded a certificate of good citizenship from the IAA.

“We congratulate the families for their vigilance and for demonstrating good citizenship,” said Distelfeld.

Byzantine-period jug which was found during a family hike in the Beit She’an National Park. (Shmuelik Armon)
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