Detailed Ancient Drawings of Ships Discovered in the Heart of Israel’s Desert

November 14, 2018 | Amanda Borschel-Dan
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Israeli archaeologists digging in the city of Beersheba—located in the Negev desert and many miles from any of the country’s coasts—found a water cistern that they date to the 1st century CE. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

A newly discovered water cistern . . . has turned out to be the 2,000-year-old canvas for a series of engravings depicting thirteen sea vessels and even a sailor to steer them. Technical details are included in some of the ship drawings etched into the cistern’s plaster walls, which suggests the graffiti artist had practical knowledge of ship construction, said Davida Eisenberg-Degen, a specialist in rock art and graffiti at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). . . .

The art-covered cistern was uncovered during IAA excavations ahead of the construction of a new Beersheba neighborhood [called] Rakefet. The roughly 39-foot-deep water-storage pit, with an area of roughly 16.5 by 18 feet, is thought to have been used by a nearby 1st-century Roman-era domicile up through recent times. In excavating the sediment fill, archaeologists uncovered World War I-era ceramic shards, ammunition shells, and other weapon parts.

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