AKKO, Israel - Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists uncovered some 350 pieces of marble buried beneath the floor of a room dating to the Crusader period (13th century AD).
Archaeologists discovered the cache just north of Akko's Old City wall during a pre-construction excavation. The Akko municipality plans to add a new building at the Hilmi Shafi Educational Campus, which will house additional classrooms. Israeli law requires an exploratory dig prior to all new construction.
Excavation director Edna Stern said the rare and valuable pieces attest to the wealth of the city at that time.
"The marble was concealed like one would bury a jar with gold coins. It seems that the owner was in fear of impending danger," Stern said in the IAA press release.
"We have here a unique find, the likes of which have never been discovered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusader period [when Akko was its capital].
"During the archaeological excavations, we came upon a cellar that was sealed by collapse, comprised of building stones and charred beams. Beneath the cellar floor a hoard of c. 350 marble items and colored stones was discovered, including two broken marble tombstones with Latin inscriptions -one belonging to a person by the name of Maratinus - flat marble slabs and marble tiles of various sizes and colors, etc.
"Some extraordinary items were also found, among them a large stone cross and a large fragment of porphyry [a rare precious purple stone, which has been the color of royalty from Roman times]. The quality of the marble is excellent and it was undoubtedly imported from abroad," she said.
Stern said the rare pieces reflect "the magnificent buildings that were erected here, but have not survived, as well as the commerce and the wealth of its residents."
The pieces have been transferred to the IAA for further study.
Source: IAA press release