Mysterious Ancient Relics That Still Baffle Archaeologists

Posted: April 20, 2013 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, News, Science
Tags: – Four mysterious disk-shaped copper plates were discovered by archaeologists conducting excavations close to a necropolis of the ancient archaeological site just east of the Sea of Galilee, Israel.

Recently, from the fascinating region of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake of Tiberias), near the Golan Heights, in the Jordan Rift Valley, northeast Israel, archaeologists reported the discovery of a submerged cone-shaped structure.

Now, the four copper plates – first unearthed during a survey two years ago at Hippos-Sussita – baffle archaeologists working in the area.


Click on image to enlargeThe excavated remains of Hippos, an aerial view. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project

What was the plates’ true purpose? How old the artifacts are?

Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, Israel along with other reseachers of the Hippos Excavation Project asks for help:


The four plates, showing the “inner” sides with decorative incisions and apparent nail marks. Courtesy Michael Eisenberg and the Hippos Excavation Project

“Has anyone encountered such plates and if so, do you know if they were set on wooden coffins?”

“They were found in the Hippos necropolis during several surveys”, says Israeli archaeologist Dr. Michael Eisenberg.

He directs the Hippos Excavation Project, which has uncovered remarkably well-preserved monumental remains and artifacts at this ancient mountaintop Greco-Roman city, a site that overlooks the Sea of Galilee.


“None were found during excavation, but all were found very near to robbed and open graves.

It was Dr. Alexander Iermolin, conservator from the institute of Haifa, who first found the pieces during a metal detector survey. They were totally ignored even by us as at first glance they look rather modern.”

The disk-shaped plates, approximately 20 cm in diameter, were found at the necropolis hill located 300 m south of Hippos, feature what appear to be incisions in a decorative pattern on what has been interpreted as their inner sides, with clear marks of nails and a hole in the middle of each.


As the necropolis has not yet been systematically excavated, the age and specific context of the plates could not be determined.


Click on image to enlargeHippos, the main excavation areas. Above and below, aerial views. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project


Hippos – The temenos south wall. Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project


Credits: Michael Eisenberg/Hippos Excavation Project

According to Dr. Eisenberg, the necropolis is probably dated to the broad Hellenistic-Byzantine time range, as does the nearby Hippos-Sussita polis, which has been extensively excavated.
However, the plates were found outside of graves, not inside, so it is difficult to determine the provenance as they could not be associated with surrounding artifacts and human remains within the internments.

“The plates seemed to have been thrown out of the graves by ancient robbers,” says Dr. Eisenberg, who suspects that the relics were first exposed as a result of looting.

They may not be the only extant examples. “One similar plate was located recently in the Israeli treasury department, but without any context”, says Eisenberg.

The mystery surrounding the relics still remains.

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