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Ancient relics found during Jerusalem traffic stop

A Palestinian was arrested on suspicion of intending to sell the Roman-era artifacts on the black market.

Israeli police seized these 2,000-year-old Roman-era bricks in Jerusalem, May 30, 2023. Credit Police Spokesperson.
Israeli police seized these 2,000-year-old Roman-era bricks in Jerusalem, May 30, 2023. Credit Police Spokesperson.

Police detectives working in eastern Jerusalem who stopped a vehicle discovered 2,000-year-old bricks with imprints of Roman seals, the Israeli Police announced on Wednesday.

A 68-year-old Palestinian was arrested on Tuesday night and is suspected of intending to sell the bricks on the black market.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which has examined the artifacts, the bricks came from the Hebron area, and were used in a structure by the Roman military unit that destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

The authority said the bricks suggest the existence of a hitherto unknown military camp in the Hebron area.

The Roman military continued using those types of bricks during their rule until the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-136 C.E.

“In our routine activities, we usually come across serious and classic crime and fewer criminals related to archaeological finds,” said Itzik Gor of the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.

“This time, together with the Antiquities Authority, we uncovered significant findings with historical and archaeological importance and caught a person who possessed them and was suspected of intending to sell them in violation of the law,” he said.

“We will continue to work with all enforcement authorities in Israel to deal with crime in all its forms, including those who trade and possess archaeological finds in violation of the law,” Gor said.

The suspect is in custody and is expected to face charges related to the illegal possession and attempted sale of archaeological artifacts.

According to the authority, antiquities theft is often carried out by organized gangs that dig illegally at pre-determined sites and shifting locations at night to evade authorities. Stolen artifacts are typically sold on the black market.

Israel has more than 33,000 antiquities sites.

Earlier this month, authorities caught five suspects red-handed trying to rob a 2,000-year-old antiquities site in northern Israel.

The suspects were trying to rob a Roman-Byzantine site in the village of Ein Mahil, near Nazareth.

Last week, coffins dating back to the Bar Kochba revolt against the Roman Empire were uncovered in the Galilee by authorities investigating the theft of ancient artifacts.

The operation took place in Mashhad, near Nazareth, where a burial cave containing several intricately decorated stone coffins dating back approximately 1,850 years was found.

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