Israeli Contractors Damage and Hide Rare Sarcophagus
Israeli construction contractors may be in trouble after attempting to conceal a 1,800-year-old Roman-era sarcophagus from the authorities—and damaging the antique limestone coffin in the process.
The sarcophagus was found by workers on a construction site in the coastal town of Ashkelon last week. But instead of declaring the remarkable find, the builders removed the historic artifact themselves with a tractor before hiding it under a stack of construction material.
AFP reported that police questioned the men on suspicion of not reporting the discovery, while the company that the men work for announced an internal investigation into the incident and promised to pursue legal action if any wrongdoing is determined.
A spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority admitted she did not know why the workers tried to conceal the coffin.
Gabby Mazor, a former Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist and an expert on the Roman era explained that the coffin’s decorations were “unique.”
“All sides are decorated with very impressive and beautiful decorations. Quite a few sarcophagi are found in Israel, but nearly none of them are decorated, and those that are usually have wreaths and other floral themes,” he said.
However the sarcophagus in question depicts a male figure and intricate engravings of bull heads, naked Cupids, and an image of Medusa, who the romans believed protected the dead.
Although the city of Ashkelon was a multicultural town inhabited by pagan Romans, Jews, and Samaritans Mazor believes that, based on the decorations, the sarcophagus belonged to a Roman.
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