Rare Second Temple Bronze Tools Uncovered Near the Sea of Galilee
2000-year-old bronze artifacts in the form of a can and a shovel have been discovered in Magdala, situated North West of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.
A team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) digging in the Galilee region have discovered temple vestiges dating to the second temple period in Magdala, situated on the western banks of the Sea of Gennesaret, the IAA said in a press release on Tuesday.
The sacred vestals that were discovered included a bronze shovel similar to those used for temple worship in the Tabernacle and in Jerusalem. The long-handled scooping implement made of bronze was employed at the Tabernacle for clearing away the ashes from the altar of burnt offering and is described in the bible (Ex 27:1-3; 38:3; Nu 4:14). Serving the same purpose were the copper shovels the Hebrew-Phoenician workman Hiram made for use at the temple built by Solomon. (1Ki 7:13, 14, 40, 45) These items were also among the temple utensils that the Babylonians carried away in 587 BC. (2Ki25:8,14; Jer 52:18).
The incense shovel as it was found in the excavation. (Eyad Bisharat Israel Antiquities Authority)
“A similar incense shovel and jug as those found here in Migdal were discovered by Yigael Yadin in a cache dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising which was revealed in the Cave of the Letters in the Judean Desert. Incense shovels have also been found in the Galilee at Bethsaida, Taiyaba and in Wadi Hammam, and across the country, but all-in-all this is a very rare find”, said Eyad Bisharat , one of the excavators working for IAA.
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Avshalom-Gorni, the director of the excavations in Magdala adds, “The incense shovel and jug found in the excavation were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the rooms, at the storehouses that are located adjacent the dock of a large Jewish settlement, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the late Second Temple period. These implements might have been saved in the storeroom as heirlooms by a Jewish family living at Magdala, or they may have been used for daily work as well”.
The jug as it was discovered in the excavation. (Eyad Bisharat Israel Antiquities Authority)
In the bible, shovels were used to winnow grain (Isa 30:24). The broad winnowing shovel was employed at a threshing floor to scoop up threshed grain and throw it into the air against the wind, which blew away the refuse, such as chaff, and allowed the grain to fall to the threshing floor. John the Baptizer prophetically described the Messiah as having in hand a figurative winnowing shovel, with which he would separate symbolic “wheat” from “chaff.” (Mt 3:1,12)
Fittingly, this place is often suggested as the home of Mary Magdalene. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus expelled seven demons from her, which made her put faith in him as the Messiah (Lu. 8:1-3) However the most prominent reference to Mary, so-called Magdalene, in the Christian tradition is the connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus. She was present at Jesus’ execution, perfumed his dead body and witnessed his resurrection (Mt 27:55,56,61; Mr 15:40; Joh 19:25).
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The excavation this season was located alongside the pier of the large Jewish settlement of Magdala. So far the excavations have uncovered a marketplace, streets, ritual baths, and a first-century synagogue with plastered walls and a mosaic floor.
An aerial view of the synagogue uncovered in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Migdal. The site is open to visitors. (Skyview Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Magdala (a form of the Hebrew migh·dalʹ) means “Tower” and is located about 6 km (3.73 miles) NNW of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Located near the fork formed by the road running along the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias and the one coming down from the western hills, this site occupies a strategic position. Its Greek name is Taricheae, meaning “place where fish are salted” – possibly alluding to the main source of income of the city’s inhabitants 2,000 years ago - it was a large Jewish settlement in the Early Roman period. The site is mentioned in Jewish sources, and at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple it served as Josephus’ main military base in his war against the Romans in the Galilee.
Magdala is already open daily to the public and visitors can tour the remains of a first century Jewish town and Duc In Altum, a new prayer center at the site. The site is considered as the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history for its historical and religious significance for both religions.
Featured Image: The incense shovel after having been cleaned in the Israel Antiquities Authority metallurgical laboratories. Source: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
By Sam Bostrom