6th century B.C.E. artifacts unearthed near Ein Gedi
Rare artifacts from the Shivat Zion ("Return of Zion") era, after the destruction of the First Temple, were discovered last week in a cave in the Ein Gedi region. The discovery of the items, dating back to the sixth century B.C.E., was announced Thursday by the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority.
For the past three years the Archaeology Institute at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) and the Cave Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been conducting an archaeological survey of the cliffs of the Judean Desert. BIU's Prof. Hanan Eshel is in charge of the project.
A week ago, in one of the caves, the archaeologists unearthed objects that belonged to Jews who came back to the land of Israel following their exile in Babylonia, after King Cyrus of Persia declared that they could return in 538 B.C.E.
According to the first chapter of the Book of Ezra, Cyrus made this declaration in the first year of his reign. The book also lists the families who had been exiled by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
The findings in the cave consisted, among other things, of glass and gold beads, a stick used for applying makeup, an alabaster bowl, a pendant, bronze mirrors, a necklace and an oil lamp. The most impressive finding is a Babylonian stamp bearing the figure of a priest worshiping the moon god.
The archaeologists say this is an unequalled collection from the Shivat Zion era, and further evidence that the immigrants settled in the Ein Gedi area and were economically well off, enjoying the protection of the Persian empire. Similar findings of the same era were discovered in a nearby archaeological mound in excavations carried out 40 years ago.