Israeli archaeologists are praising a local rodent for its contributions to their field after it uncovered an ancient lamp.
A team of officials from the Israel Antiquities Authority’s anti-theft department were on a routine patrol at the Horbat Siv site in the central Emek Hefer region when they happened upon a pile of dirt next to the opening of a porcupine den.
Lying in the dust was a 1,400-year-old intact ceramic lamp with signs of use. An IAI statement said the lamp — which was dug up by the porcupine — helped archaeologists date the ruins and when the site was populated.
Horbat Siv is a large archaeological site from the Roman and Byzantine period.
“The porcupine is an excellent archaeologist, a sort of incomparable digger,” said IAI anti-theft official Ira Horovitz.
The adaptable Indian crested porcupine is common across Israel. It lives in mating pairs, and digs deeps burrows of up to 15 meters deep.
“Since the country is full of archaeological sites, it happens that the porcupine builds its home between remains hiding underground. He removes the dirt expertly onto the surface, along with all sorts of archaeological artifacts it comes across.”
As pleased as the archaeologists were with the porcupine, they also sent a stern warning to the rodent and its friends. “The IAI calls on porcupines to refrain from digging dens in archaeological sites, and warn that digging in these sites without a license is a crime.”