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The last thing archaeologist Dr Gideon Hadas was thinking about as he was walking beside the famous Dead Sea was that there was anything archaeological to be found in that arid, desolate area – but that’s what happened. According to Israel’s national news service Arutz Sheva, Dr Hadas was strolling along a beach near the kibbutz at Ein Gedi when he found an ancient anchor, 4’9″ long by 3′ wide.
Made of wood and lead about 2,000 years ago, the anchor weighed some 1,100 lbs. The lead had been eaten away by the salt in the Dead Sea, but the wood was preserved. This is the opposite of what is usually found: many similar anchors from the Roman period have been found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tis is the first time an anchor has been found in or around the Dead Sea. Because of the high salt content of the water – 28% salt compared with only 4% for normal sea water – shipping on the Dead Sea was restricted, as it is today. Besides, not many people live around the Dead Sea, the kibbutz at Ein Gedi being one of the few communities.
Ein Gedi (Spring of the Kid) is a fertile oasis on thewestern shore of the Dead Sea, watered by a arge spring that rises 400′ above the shoreline. Now a nature reserve, the area is rich in palm trees, vineyards and, in ancient times, balsalm. Even today the area is home to ibez, a type of mountain goat, as well as hyrax, a small herbivore about the size of a small dog. David used its wild surrounding area as a hiding place from King Saul and in one of the nearby caves he cut off a portion of Saul’s robe! (1 Sam 23:29 and 1 Sam 24)
Excavations have uncovered a Chalcolithic temple near the spring, a fortress dating from the 7th century BC and a 2nd century BC Roman fort which served as the base for a patrol. Nearby Tel Goren indicates that there was a small town here in between those two dates. Occupation between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD continued, as shown by a Roman bathhouse and a 4th century AD synagogue. It is not clear yet whether the anchor has any connection with the community here in ancient times.
After Dr Hadad informed the Israel Antiquities Authorities of his find he was given permission to continue researching the anchor. It will go on public display when the research is finished.