Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary

News and Comments that relate to the Hebrew Bible and to my posts on various ANE and Hebrew Bible related mailing lists - Yitzhak Sapir

Friday, March 17, 2006

Treasure Hunters Destroy Tell en-Najila and other ancient sites

A Maariv article by Dalia Mazori reports (Hebrew) that treasure hunters searching for gold destroyed Tell en-Najila:

Tell en-Najila, Photo source: Yochai Gootwine, tiuli.com (Hebrew)
The site of Tell en-Najila lies on the banks of the Shiqma river, between Qiryat Gat and Bet Qama. The Tell was settled in different periods from the Chalcolithic period, some 7000 years ago, to the Middle Ages. Legend says that near a tamarisk tree on the top of the Tell, the Turkish army buried a crate containing soldiers' wages as it fled from the British army.

Last weekend, a group of antiquities looters chose to see if the legend was accurate. They came to the Tell with various mechanical machines and tools, metal detectors, trucks and digging tools. With these heavy tools, the looters began digging the tell, destroying anything that lies in their way: ancient walls, an ancient Muslim grave with the bones inside, and settlement layers from the Iron and Bronze Ages. The tamarisk was left with its roots out in the open, a big hole lying below it.

The looters also dug up Khirbet Abu-Hof, near Kibbutz Lahav, a site that was continuously inhabited from the prehistoric period to the Middle Ages. Illegal excavations have been carried out in this site in the past, only this time the looters used heavy tools that caused heavy damage to the entrance of the cave at the site. It seems the looters used a false map on which the treasure was marked.

Further excavations were carried out near graves of Sheikhs at Tell Haror, Sheikh Abu Obel, Beer Almuth, Rosh Maale Tsurim, and Beer Molada.

The director of the Antiquities Prevention Unit at the Antiquities Authority, Amir Ganor, said that the Turkish treasure legend has kept the IAA for years. So far, no real reports of treasure finding have reached the IAA and all the maps that were confiscated from looters were found to be false. "In the past, the looters even hired conjurors that were supposed to help them by conjuring and communicating with ghosts and animals." Ganor emphasized that damage and illegal digs at an antiquities site are felonies, for which the law specifies a five year prison term.


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