Treasure-hunting Sisters Find Roman Era Human Remains

Human remains believed to be 2,000 years old were found this week by two sisters near the ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea.

Julia Shvicky of Kibbutz Barkai and Janet Daws, visiting from England, found some bones that had washed up on the shore during a stroll by the beach.

"I love tacking strolls at this spot. I always look for special stones and coins from the Roman era," Shvicky said. "Just as we started walking I said to my sister: 'Wouldn't it be fun if we found something interesting?'"

At first, the sisters did not know they had found human bones. They took them to the kibbutz nurse who told them the bones were part of a human spinal cord and hip.

They immediately handed their find over to the police who briefly quizzed them and sent the human remains to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for examination. Though test results are not yet in, police and the Israeli Antiquities Authorities (IAA) estimate the findings date back to Roman times.

The city of Caesarea has a long and varied history. It was originally built by King Herod in the first century B.C.E., who constructed an artificial harbor, markets, baths and a grand palace. A large hippodrome where chariot races and other events were held was later added. The city, which reached its peak during the Byzantine period, nearly vanished during the early Arab era.

A small walled town was built on a small portion of it by the Crusaders but after they were expelled from the Holy Land it was finally abandoned.

Today, the archeological site is part of the Caesarea National Park administered by the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. Much of its ruins have been excavated and are on display. In addition, its ancient amphitheater is a popular venue for concerts.

Human remains have often been found at the site by visitors. IAA's northern district head, Kamil Sari, said that bones are usually washed up after strong rains.

About eight months ago, IAA officials reburied a skull that was found exposed in a nearby area. Pottery fragments dating from the Roman period were found beside it. Archeologists say a number of graves are believed to be in the area.

Reflecting on her experience, would-be treasure hunter Shvicky seemed rather amused. "My sister and I were rolling over laughing - we wanted something interesting and we found it," she said.