Second Temple Relics Discovered by Lake Kinneret

Cache includes a decorated bronze incense shovel and a bronze jug in Magdala archaeological excavations.

The incense shovel as it was found in the excavation in an undated photo from the Israel Archaeology Authority, April 5, 2016.
Eyad Bisharat / Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists have uncovered bronze relics from the Second Temple era at Magdala, located along the western shore of the Kinneret, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

The finds include a decorated bronze incense shovel, which was "used for transferring embers from place to place" according to the authority and a bronze jug. The Bible mentions such a shovel in the Book of Exodus as an implement for the altar. Such shovels were also associated with the Temple and depictions of them appeared in mosaics on ancient synagogue floors that have been discovered.

“The incense shovel that was found is one of ten others that are known in the country from the Second Temple period," said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the chief archaeologist on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. She noted that incense shovels were used for both rituals as well as for daily tasks.

"The incense shovel and jug found in our excavation were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the room, at the storehouses that is located adjacent to the dock of a large Jewish settlement," she said. Avshalom-Gorni dated the findings to the late Second Temple period, about 2,000 years ago. "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,” she added.

Magdala was a Jewish settlement during the Second Temple era. The archaeological dig has uncovered ritual baths, streets, a marketplace and a first-century synagogue with plastered walls and a mosaic floor.

Eyad Bisharat, who supervised the work in the excavation area, said not only the volunteers were thrilled but also the veteran excavators "because it’s not every day that one uncovers such rare artifacts as these, and in such a fine state of preservation.”

“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 Kochba revolt, which was revealed in the Cave of the Letters in the Judean Desert," explained Arfan Najar, the lead archaeologist at the excavations. "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.”