Incredibly realistic graffiti of ships found on the walls of a biblical-era cistern in Israel


The faint etchings of 13 ships, dating back nearly 2,000 years, have been discovered on the walls of a cistern in Israel. Located in the city of Beersheba in the Negev desert of southern Israel, the cistern was unearthed by archaeologists during excavations ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood.

As part of the digging, the team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) came across a dent in the ground, which upon further inspection revealed a cistern. Measuring around 18 feet (5.5 meters) long and nearly 16 feet (5 meters) wide, this 40 feet (12 meters)-deep Roman reservoir had once been used to store water.

According to the researchers, a flight of stairs allows access to the bottom of the cistern. Examination of the stairs’ hewing and plastering as well as the general structure of the reservoir indicates that it was built somewhere around the 1st century or 2nd century AD, making the cistern nearly 2,000-years old.


During their survey, the team also uncovered faint graffiti along the walls of the structure, including that of 13 ships, one sailor and multiple zoomorphs, which are essentially animal-shaped figures. As per Davida Eisenberg-Degen, a rock-art expert at the IAA, the etchings, particularly that of the ships, are incredibly intricate. In addition to being realistically proportioned, these engravings contain details that one would have found on vessels of the period.

At the time, Israel was under Roman rule. In fact, as noted by Eisenberg-Degen, the site of the cistern is situated about 2,600 feet (800 meters) from the ruins of a Roman settlement. The reservoir, the IAA said in a statement, will be turned into a green space within the new neighborhood for the purpose of preservation.


While it is not known when the cistern became defunct, the archaeologists believe it was in use until recently. Interestingly, among the rubble inside the structure, the team discovered ceramic fragments and even ammunition shells and parts of weapons dating back to World War I.

Earlier in February 2018, a collaborative effort from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Caesarea Development Corporation unearthed a rare, multicolored Roman mosaic with Greek inscriptions. The excavation was carried out inside the perimeters of the Caesarea National Park that encompasses the ruins of the ancient Judeo-Roman port town of Caesarea (or Kesariya) in north-central Israel.

According to the archaeologists involved in the project – which originally focused on the reconstruction of the impressive Crusaders-era entrance bridge to the town, the fascinating mosaic dates back to circa 2nd-3rd century AD and was found underneath the remnants of a larger building.


Source/Image Credits: Haaretz

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