Israeli archaeologists unearth Roman sword believed to have been used against Jewish rebels during final battle for Second Temple • Discovery announced on eve of Tisha B'Av, 1,940 years after Temple's fall.
Israeli archaeologists have discovered a sword which they believe belonged to a Roman legionnaire, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday, the eve of the Tisha B'Av holiday, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples.
The archaeologists believe the sword may have been used against Jewish rebels in the battle over the Second Temple, which was destroyed exactly 1,940 years ago. A detailed account of the battle appears in the writings of Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius.
The 60-centimeter iron sword was found wrapped in a leather sheath inside a Herodian-era drainage canal stretching from the biblical pool of Siloam to the foot of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Archaeologists said that the sheath had kept the sword in a surprisingly well-preserved state, along with some of its ornamentation.
Archaeologists Ronny Reich, a professor at Haifa University, and Eli Shukrun from the Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the Elad Association, an Israeli organization that works to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, have spent the past four years excavating the canal where the sword was found. A few weeks prior to the sword's discovery, a golden bell was found, which archaeologists believe may have adorned the clothing of a high priest during the time of the Second Temple.
Last week, archeologists also working in same canal also found a stone featuring a rare engraving of a type of menorah, usually with seven branches, that was used during the time of the Second Temple. Surprisingly, the recently discovered stone shows an engraving of a menorah with only five branches, with a tripod-like shape at its base.
Shukrun and Reich put great significance on the fact that the stone was found in close proximity to the Temple Mount. According to them, it is possible that "a traveler passing by the menorah, who saw it with his very eyes and was impressed by its beauty, engraved an image of it on a stone and then threw the marking on the side of the road, never imagining that his creation would be found some 2,000 years later."
Above the canal where the artifacts were found is the Herodian quarter, which stretches from the pool of Siloam to the Huldah Gates at southern end of the Temple Mount. Under the canal, archeologists have found coins and cooking pots from the time of the Second Temple. The canal probably served as a final haven for Jewish rebels hiding from Roman soldiers.
In Flavius's "The Jewish War," he writes, "So now the last hope which supported the tyrants, and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns under ground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs."
His account continues, "To speak only of what was publicly known, the Romans slew some of them, some they carried captive, and others they made a search for underground, and when they found where they were they broke up the ground and slew all they met with. There were also found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands and partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine."
As in Flavius's accounts, on the ceiling of the drainage canal, which is now located underneath the Herodian Quarter, drawings appear in five different places of Romans breaking into the canal to destroy and oppress the rebellion.