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13-year-old discovers Byzantine burial inscription

A 1500 year-old stone slab was discovered in Israel last week – found by a teenage boy who was out looking for mushrooms.

13-year-old Stav Meir, a resident of Caesarea, was searching for the mushrooms along with his father, brothers and cousins. He saw a stone slab protruding out of the ground, and quickly called his father and showed him the intriguing object which had an inscription in Greek. “I immediately recognized that it was something ancient,” says Stav, a seventh-grader from Caesarea. “I studied archeology in school together with the Israel Antiquities Authority, therefore I can easily identify antiquities when I see them.”

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An archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority collected the item, and it is believed to be a Byzantine-era burial inscription, about 1500 years old. 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. 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.

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“The country’s recent rainstorms have uncovered archeological finds buried in the ground,” explains Karem Said, Haifa District Archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority. :The IAA is pleased and proud with Stav’s good citizenship, and the actual application of the knowledge he has acquired with us in the classroom and in the field. The finding of this inscription enriches archeological knowledge and our understanding of ancient Caesarea. We awarded Stav a Certificate of Appreciation for his good citizenship, and we will come to his class for a special lesson addressing the discovery he made. We urge citizens to be our partners in preserving the treasures of the land. Let us know if you discover archeological finds that have surfaced in the rain.”

Top Image: Photo by Karem Said, Israel Antiquities Authority

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