Friday, December 30, 2011

Remnants of Byzantine-era oil jar discovered along Netanya shore

Remnants of Byzantine-era oil jar discovered along Netanya shore

Large olive oil jar dating back 1,500 years found along Netanya beach • City resident who found pottery shards in shallow waters passed them on to the Israel Antiquities Authority • Relic pieces attest to bustling ancient trade between Israel and Europe.

Nitzi Yakov and Israel Hayom Staff

Israel's beaches have long attracted masses of tourists to its sandy shores and now it seems that ancient relics cannot stay away either. Pottery shards from an ancient olive-oil jar dating back to the Byzantine era recently washed ashore along Netanya's Poleg beach.

The shards constitute pieces of an unusually large-scale jar, pointing to the possibility of olive oil trading from the area to markets abroad. The find also suggests that the historic Netanya port was a scene of bustling maritime and commercial activity.

A resident of Netanya who found the relic, himself a history and archaeology buff, knew he discovered something significant when he noticed one particular piece of the ancient pottery. That shard, one that would have been the upper corner of the complete jar, was noticeably large both in size and weight.

The ancient pottery pieces were then forwarded to the Marine Archaeology Unit (MAU) of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and subsequently generated great excitement among Israel's archaeological community. The MAU is the national body in charge of supervising and protecting underwater antiquities, one entrusted to enforce the antiquities laws, prevent illegal treasure hunting and mapping of underwater archaeological sites.

Upon his initial examination of the pottery pieces, the director of the MAU Jacob Sharvit, was immediately able to identify the broken shards as dating roughly 1,500 years back to the Byzantine era (324-638 CE). Together the pieces would have made up a large 80L (21 Gal) capacity storage jar, most likely intended to be used for the transport of locally produced olive oil to Europe.