Biblical Archaeology Review 45:3, May/June 2019

Strata: Lost and Found

More than 80 years ago, a suitcase went unclaimed at the Haifa Port. Its contents wound up at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, where they sat—in storage—until last year, when the excavators of Shivta went in search of them.

Located in the Negev, the site of Shivta flourished in the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh centuries C.E.). Harris Dunscombe Colt excavated it in the 1930s. He shipped many of the artifacts uncovered in his expedition out of the country, and, tragically, the artifacts he left at Shivta burned up in a fire in 1938.

The suitcase, which sat unclaimed at the Haifa Port in 1938, had once belonged to Colt. When the current excavators of Shivta from the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa learned about Colt’s suitcase, they went in search of its contents. What they discovered at the Rockefeller Museum surpassed their expectations: 140 artifacts from Colt’s excavations, including jewelry, metal objects, bone tools, and painted plaster, as well as photographs and documents, none of which had ever been published.

After sitting in storage for decades, these objects are now on display at the Hecht Museum in Haifa.

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