Thirteen-year-old Stav Meir, from Caesarea, Israel went out a week ago with his father Zohar, his brothers and cousins, to look for mushrooms in the Caesarea area after the rains. The plentiful rains recently meant the harvest would be good. In his hunting the boy found a slab of marble poking out of the ground, with Greek letters.
“I immediately recognized that it was something ancient,” said Stav, a seventh-grader. “I studied archeology in school together with the Israel Antiquities Authority, so I can easily identify antiquities when I see them,” he noted.
The excited Stav, who understood the importance of reporting such a find, quickly reported his discovery of the slab with the Greek inscription to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and an archaeologist came to collect it for research.
The Bel Air of Ancient Times and Present
The archaeologists familiar with the site confirm that the slab is part of a tombstone, the quality of which well illustrates the extraordinary wealth of Caesarea’s rich some 1500 years ago.
According to the archaeologist Dr. Peter Gendelman, a Caesarea researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a burial inscription – a marble slab with an inscription engraved in Greek, and started with a cross. The slab, which apparently indicated the grave’s location in the cemetery and the identity of the deceased, reads:
“The grave of …. and of Anastasius, or Anastasia ……” Gendelman added that, “Already, in ancient times, Caesarea was a center of attraction for a wealthy population.
“The quality of the slab discovered by Stav, indicates the wealthy status of the person entombed, as well as the customs and beliefs of inhabitants of Caesarea in the Byzantine period. This inscription joins a large collection of burial inscriptions previously discovered around ancient Caesarea.”
During the Byzantine period, the rich of Caesarea built magnificent mansions in the suburbs of the city. These buildings gave their owners quality of life, and thus they enjoyed the rural character of the area on the one hand, and proximity to the heart of the city on the other.
Future Indiana Jones
To this day sections of five magnificent mansions have been discovered each covering an extensive area. The best known being the ‘Bird Mosaic’ mansion, whose area is estimated to cover a dunam and a half. Most of the floors, in the sections of the complex that have been excavated, were colored mosaics and some are open to the public today.
The country’s recent rainstorms have uncovered archeological finds buried in the ground.
Thousands of schoolchildren across the country study archeology with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The curriculum breathes life into cultures and ancient times, in classroom and field studies, combining archeological finds, puzzles, workshops, archaeological excavations, and tours.