Gold jewelry that was discovered in 1971 in an ancient burial cave will be put on display for the first time, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday. The jewelry was discovered in a lead coffin on Mount Scopus during excavations carried out by the Israel Department of Antiquities and headed by late archaeologist Yael Adler. According to the IAA, the find included gold earrings, a hairpin, a gold pendant and gold beads, carnelian beads, and a glass bead.
The display will be part of the 48th Archaeological Congress organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel Archaeological Association. The jewelry was studied as part of an extensive project to publish past archaeological excavations that were not fully published as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s “Publication of Past Excavations Project”, whereby old excavations that were not fully published are now being published. The congress will take place at the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, now inaugurated in Jerusalem.
“The location of the original reports that gathered dust over the years in the Israel Antiquities Authority archives, and physically tracing the whereabouts of the items themselves, has shed light on long-forgotten treasures,” says Dr. Ayelet Dayan, Head of the Archaeological Research Department, who heads this project. “The beautiful jewelry that we researched is an example of such treasures.”
Dr. Ayelet Dayan, Ayelet Gruber, and Dr. Yuval Baruch of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who carried out the research on the jewelry, consider that the valuable items that bear the symbols of Luna, the Roman moon goddess, also accompanied the girls in their lifetime, and after they died, they were buried with them to continue to protect them in the afterlife.
According to their research, two similar gold earrings were discovered in another excavation carried out by Prof. Vassilios Tzaferis on behalf of the Department of Antiquities on the Mount of Olives in 1975.
“It seems that the girl was buried with an expensive set of gold jewelry that included earrings, a chain with a lunula pendant (named after the goddess Luna), and a hairpin,” say the researchers.
Researchers believe the finds date to the period after Jerusalem had been almost totally razed following the siege of 70 CE. A Roman colony was founded during Emperor Hadrian’s trip to Judaea in 129/130 CE centered around Jerusalem which the Romans renamed Aelia Capitolina. Hadrian’s new city was dedicated to himself and certain pagan Roman gods, in particular, Jupiter. At that time, Jerusalem was inhabited by Roman legionaries and Jews were prohibited from entering the city on pain of death
“These items of jewelry are known in the Roman world, and are characteristic of young girl burials, possibly providing evidence of the people who were buried at these sites,” the researchers said. “Late Roman Jerusalem—renamed Aelia Capitolina—had a mixed population that reached the city after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the evacuation of the Jewish population. People from different parts of the Roman Empire settled in the city, bringing with them a different set of values, beliefs, and rituals. The pagan cult of the city’s new population was rich and varied, including gods and goddesses, among them the cult of the moon goddess Luna.”
Researchers believe that the gold jewelry was worn by young pagan girls nearly 1,800 years ago as amulets against the evil eye and were buried with the girls to continue to protect them in the afterlife.
“The interring of the jewelry together with the young girl is touching,” said IAA Director Eli Escusido. “One can imagine that their parents or relatives parted from the girl, either adorned with the jewelry or possibly lying by her side and thinking of the protection that the jewelry provided in the world to come. This is a very human situation, and all can identify with the need to protect one’s offspring, whatever the culture or the period.”The research will be presented today )Monday( in the professional conference organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel Archaeological Association. The final session of the congress ) will be devoted to the subject “Archaeology and the Future”, will be broadcasted live between 16:00 and 19:30 on the Congress Facebook.