The Jerusalem Post is reporting the discovery of a rare and mysterious structure in the Negev desert region of southern Israel. The structure was spotted in a former military firing range area with the help of aerial drone photography. Archaeologists working on the excavation believe it could be around 2,200 years old, placing it in the Hellenistic period of Mediterranean history in between the conquest of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire.
Dr. Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority are leading the excavation. So far, the excavation has revealed a series of rooms, stone walls, and underground baths. Several artifacts have been uncovered, including incense altars and other stone vessels engraved with images of bulls and the moon, leading researchers to believe that the structure might have been a temple. Bull worship was common among the Edomite (or Idumean) civilization which built settlements in this area throughout the Hellenistic period, leading archaeologists to believe that this could be one an extremely rare discovery.
In a statement, the researchers underscore how unique such a find would be if confirmed:
If this was indeed an Idumean palace or temple, it is a rare and exciting find. Similar structures in this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It seems that the building was intentionally dismantled, possibly during the Hasmonean conquest of the region.
Archaeologists have found evidence of a large fire among the ruins, possibly indicating that the structure was burned down at some point, likely by one of the ruling dynasties of Judea.
While the excavations will likely take years, this discovery reveals a fascinating glimpse into a little-understood period of Mediterranean history and is one more demonstration of how aerial drone photography is revolutionizing archaeology. Scattered stones and shards of artifacts had been found in the area of this new excavation site for years, but were assumed to be debris until a drone’s bird’s-eye view revealed the outlines of a larger structure. Just wait until remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) catch up with their airborne counterparts. Atlantis, here we come.