Sunday, February 18, 2018

Gaza resident finds ancient Roman site in his backyard


By Ruth Regan - January 31, 2018
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Section: [Main News]
Tags: [culture] [Gaza]

After heavy rains fell in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza last week, Abdelkarim al-Kafarna made quite the discovery in his own backyard. An ancient burial site was unearthed, likely dating back to the ancient Roman Empire, although further testing would be required in order to properly date it.

The discovered tomb comprised of nine burial holes with bones and clay pots in.

Gaza is rich in archaeological remains. As one of the oldest cities in the world, it also held a pivotal position as the entrance to the Via Maris, the trade and military sea route.

Originally a Canaanite settlement, Gaza changed hands through several empires, before it was besieged by the Hasmoneans in 96 B.C. It was then rebuilt by Roman General Pompey and played a prosperous role in the far-reaching Roman Empire, complete with a 500-member senate governing the city.

In a report on Archaeology in Palestine Dr. Hamdan Taha from the Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (DACH) approximates there to be nearly 2000 archaeological sites in Palestine.

Yet Gaza’s archaeological riches are today buried in conflict and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip lacks the space, resources or will to preserve such ruins.

After much destruction from Israeli airstrikes in the 2014 conflict along with projections of the population growing by nearly a quarter by 2020, Gaza faces a huge housing crisis.

'Many abandoned sites have long been left unprotected. Most importantly, there has been a lack of awareness of the importance of cultural heritage among the public, due to difficult political circumstances. Since October 2000, great damage has been inflicted on cultural heritage in the Palestinian areas. These have suffered from military bombing and shelling, causing partial or total destruction.’

One area of dispute is the 'Bronze Age city’ discovered in 1998. Archaeologists and academics have been ensued in an ongoing battle to protect the ancient Canaanite city.

The question of how to value the loss of ancient heritage sites in conflicts involving great human loss is a contentious one. Much coverage has been given of ISIS’ destruction of ancient sites at Palmyra in Syria whilst the same conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and created 11 million refugees, according to the UN.

There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Palestine, all located in the West Bank. All three are also placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

DACH has been working to preserve cultural heritage in Palestine since its re-establishment in 1994. 

 

Photo: ruins in the ancient Roman village of Battir, West Bank (stock)

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