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2,200-Year-Old Duck-Shaped Shovel Unearthed in Ancient Galilee

Clue to dating the arrival of the first Jewish inhabitants in ancient Galilee?

A 2,200-year-old bronze incense shovel whose handle is shaped like the head and neck of a duck was discovered during excavations just west of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, according to a recent report by Ilan Ben Zion of The Times of Israel. The excavations were conducted at the ancient Galilee site of Khirbet el-Eika by a team of archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.A study of Khirbet el-Eika’s inhabitants, who owned the shovel in the Hellenistic period, may provide evidence of how and when Jews first occupied ancient Galilee.

The shovel was discovered at the archaeological site ofKhirbet el-Eika, located on the route that runs west from the Sea of Galilee (4.3 miles away) and then through the Galilee to the Mediterranean (about 25 miles away) and was built on a hill above the Arbel Valley. The fortified site is unusual in that it was occupied only during the Hellenistic period.

The settlement lasted only until about 140 B.C., when it was destroyed. It may have been destroyed in an attack by the Hasmonean rulers of Judea seeking to impose Judaism on the population at that time, or perhaps as a result of some other event. The Hasmoneans had come to power after rebelling against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV in 167 B.C. in protest against his actions in banning Judaism and forcing the population to follow Greek religious practices.

The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.

The shovel was found in the remains of what was apparently a public building, and nearby the Hebrew University archaeologists found a number of nearly-unbroken massive ceramic Aegean-style wine amphorae. Used for long-distance


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