Last month, a couple from Beit She’an, an Israeli city about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, was simply out for a walk. It was just an ordinary evening walk, but Beit She’an is no ordinary city.
During biblical times, Beit She’an was conquered by the Philistines. In the process King Saul and three of his sons were killed, their bodies hung on the walls of Beit She’an (1 Samuel 31:10). Today, the city boasts the Archaeological National Park, where tourists can walk through the impressive remains of Canaanite, Egyptian, and Roman cities.
So is it any wonder that the couple taking a walk in Beit She’an last month stumbled onto 1,700-year-old relics?
According to Eitan Klein, deputy head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Theft Prevention Unit: “These busts were made of local limestone and they show unique facial features, details of clothing and hairstyles. It seems that at least one of them depicts a bearded man. Busts like these were usually placed near or in a burial cave, and they may have represented the image of the deceased along general lines.”
Klein said similar busts have been found in the past in the Beit She’an area and in northern Jordan. “But not one resembles another, and that’s the importance of these finds. These busts are in the Oriental style, which shows that at the end of the Roman period the use of Classical art had subsided, and local trends came into vogue.”