Man Fearing Coronavirus Apocalypse Returns Stolen Ballista
The COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak has shaken many around the world. In Israel, a man with a guilty conscience, who fears the virus could result in the end of the world, gave back a Roman catapult stone he stole many years ago. This ballista stone was probably fired during the Siege of Jerusalem, some 2000 years ago.
Small numbers of people have begun to worry about an apocalypse, those with a guilty conscience want to put things right before the end of the world. According to HAARETZ “some people are stirred by the notion of impending doom to return antiquities they stole years or even decades ago.”
Mysterious Culprit Sees Sense
The identity of the culprit is unknown. He used an intermediary Moshe Manies to return the item because he was too shamefaced or frankly scared of facing any punishment. The stolen item was returned to the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) by Mr. Manies.
Moshe Manies (right) and Uzi Rotstein (left) of the Israel Antiquities Authority with the stolen ballista stone. (Moshe Manies / IAA)
According to HAARETZ, “the IAA learned of the miscreants’ remorse via a third-party Facebook post,” written by the intermediary for the thief. Uzi Rotstein a member of the IAA’s Theft Prevention Force was alerted and he “arranged for a quick hand-off of the artifact,” according to The Times of Israel.
It later emerged that the thief and the IAA got in contact. According to an IAA press releases quoted by The Times of Israel the miscreant stated “the time has come to clear my conscience. It feels that the end of the world is near.” It only took what he believed to be an apocalypse to do the right thing.
The guilty man, who is married, was cleaning his home for Passover when he came across the catapult and was stricken with guilt. CBN News quotes Manies as saying that the culprit “felt the time was ripe to clear his conscience, and he asked me to help him return it to the Israel Antiquities Authority.”
The specific ballista rock that a remorseful thief returned through a third party. (Clara Amit / IAA)
Stolen Roman Catapult
The artifact was stolen when the man was only a teenager. Manies told CBN News that the miscreant and a friend “toured the City of David site and came across a display of ballista stones, which were catapulted at fortifications.” The catapult projectile was taken from the Jerusalem Walls National Park. This stone came from a weapon, the ballista that was much prized by the ancient Romans and it was an early form of artillery.
Dr Yuval Baruch, an archaeologist with the IAA told the CBN News that these “ancient weapons, which were used to hurl stones like the one returned at the top of the fortress walls in order to distance the protectors of the city, who stood at the top.”
It has not been established definitively, but it seems that the ballista stone was used during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The eventual capture of Jerusalem is one of the most significant events in all Jewish history. There have been many similar projectiles found in and around Jerusalem.
Depiction of an ancient Roman catapult. (Edward Pointer (1868) / Public domain)
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The return of the historic object has been generally welcomed. However, stealing the catapult stone was and is a serious offence. It was the theft of a piece of the heritage of Israel. Moreover, a crime like this prevents experts from studying rare objects, especially such as the ballista stone, in its original historic context.
Rotstein, the man who helped to retrieve the stone for the state of Israel told CBN News that “appeal to anyone who has taken an archaeological artifact, to take a weight off their heart and return it to the State Treasury.” The virus pandemic could result in more items being returned. It is presumed that there will be no further action taken against the culprit who stole the catapult projectile.
The theft of antiquities is a serious problem in Israel and it’s a veritable industry. In recent years, some important historic artifacts have been returned, such as a chalkstone ossuary returned in 2011. Also, two catapult stones that were stolen from the archaeological site of Gamala, near Jerusalem, were anonymously returned in 2015. These had been looted 25 years earlier.
Top image: Various Roman catapult (ballista) rocks found along the Pilgrim's Road in the City of David, Jerusalem. Source: Clara Amit / IAA
By Ed Whelan