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Israeli hiker finds 2,800-year-old scarab amulet

The carnelian amulet may be evidence of an Assyrian presence in the citadel of Tel Rekhesh, according to Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Itzik Paz.

Erez Abrahamov holds an ancient Assyrian amulet he found in the Nahal Tabor Nature Reserve. Photo by Erez Abrahamov.
Erez Abrahamov holds an ancient Assyrian amulet he found in the Nahal Tabor Nature Reserve. Photo by Erez Abrahamov.

An Israeli army reservist stumbled upon an ancient Assyrian scarab amulet while hiking in northern Israel’s Nahal Tabor Nature Reserve during a day off, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

“I received a two-day leave from the reserves and decided to take advantage of the two sunny days for a trip,” said Erez Abrahamov, 45, a resident of Paduel.

“During the trip, I saw something shimmering in the ground. At first, I thought it was a bead or an orange stone. After I picked it up, I noticed that it had engravings that resembled a beetle. I called and reported the amazing find to the [Israel] Antiquities Authority,” he said.

A 2,800-year-old carnelian scarab featuring a griffon—a mythical winged horse—was discovered by a hiker in Israel’s Nahal Tabor Nature Reserve. Photo by Anastasia Shapiro, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The area of the nature reserve has been inhabited for thousands of years and there are numerous archaeological sites scattered around the park, including ancient ruins and burial caves.

Analysis by professor emeritus Othmer Kiel from the University of Friborg revealed that the scarab—2,800 years old and crafted from carnelian—depicted a griffon or winged horse at a gallop, consistent with similar artifacts dating back to the eighth century BCE.

According to the IAA, the scarab was found at the foot of Tel Rekhesh, one of the most important mounds in northern Israel. Researchers have identified the site as Anaharath, a city referred to in the book of Joshua as lying within the territory of the tribe of Issachar.

According to Itzik Paz, an IAA archaeologist who excavated at Tel Rekhesh, the amulet “may belong to the period of Assyrian rule and may indicate the presence of Assyrian, or perhaps Babylonian, officials at Tel Rekhesh during this period.”

Paz explained that “the griffon is a well-known artistic motif in the art of the Ancient Near East, and it is common on seals from the Iron Age. In light of the paucity of findings that have been discovered, so far, within the citadel, and if the seal can indeed be dated—based on artistic aspects, to the Late Iron Age, it may be possible to link the seal and an Assyrian presence in the citadel of Tel Rekhesh, which would be a discovery of great significance.”

Scarab seals, widely utilized across ancient civilizations, featured symbols of various cultural and religious beliefs. Fashioned from materials like carnelian, these artifacts served as both decorative ornaments and functional seals.

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