2,000 Year Old Village Unearthed in Be'er Sheva

The remnants of a 2,000 year old Jewish settlement including watchtowers, limestone vessels used for purity rituals, underground tunnels used by Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochba Revolt, and an oil lamp embellished with nine branched menorahs were uncovered near the outskirts of Beersheva in early 2019 per the Baltimore Jewish Press.

“Remains of the settlement cover an area of circa 2 dunams and include several structures and installations, such as the foundations of a large watchtower, baking facilities, ancient trash pits and an underground system that was probably used as a Jewish ritual bath,” said Peter Fabian of Ben-Gurion University and Daniel Varga of the Israel Antiquities Authority, site excavators. “Signs of a conflagration discovered in some of the structures evince a crisis that the settlement experienced, probably that of the First Jewish Revolt in circa 70 CE.”

A Chinese media outlet, XinghuaNet, revealed trash pits and baking facilities were uncovered at the site. Numerous copper coins were also found scattered throughout the ancient village most likely dating to the years of Roman reign over the area.

The village was found just south of the Kingdom of Judah along the main road that led from Tel Beersheva to the southern coastal plains, which was probably the justification for the watchtower in this particular location. Excavators only unearthed the foundation of the watchtower at this time while it is believed there would have historically been a staircase leading to two additional floors. The excavation was being done just prior to plans to build a new neighborhood in Beersheva.

“It is interesting to note that of the few lamps found depicting a menorah, these are never seven-branched,” Varga and Fabian said. “This was in accordance with a ruling in the Babylonian Talmud stating that only the menorah in the Temple could have seven branches and thus lamps used in domestic contexts commonly had eight to eleven branches.”

“This is probably one of the earliest artistic depictions of a nine-branched menorah yet discovered.”

Written by Erin Parfet