Biblical Archaeology Review 27:1, January/February 2001

Return to the Cave of Letters: What Still Lies Buried?

By Richard A. FreundRami Arav

A small shovel started it all. In the summer of 1996, at the excavation of the Galilee site of Bethsaida (which we codirect), we uncovered a small bronze incense shovel. Others like it were used in the imperial cult throughout the Roman Empire. Although not impressive in size (a mere 8 inches long), the shovel is expertly crafted: The handle is molded in the shape of a Corinthian capital; two leaves in the corners of the rectangular pan give it the appearance of a horned altar; and five concentric circles on the pan itself provide elegant decoration (see photo). The discovery was so noteworthy that BAR named it a Prize Find in its 1997 “Dig Issue.”

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