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Archaeologists link ancient sword to fall of Herod’s temple
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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Archaeologists have discovered a Roman sword from the time of the destruction of the second Jewish temple in 70 A.D., officials announced this week.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said that the 60-centimeter long weapon and its leather scabbard were found during excavations in a 2,000-year-old drainage channel in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan just south of Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

It said in a statement that the channel, which funnelled rainwater to the biblical pool of Siloam, “served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple.”

A spokeswoman told AFP the find was made last week.

According to Jewish tradition, the first temple, built by King Solomon, was razed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second temple, built on the same site by King Herod, is said to have been destroyed on the same date in 70 A.D., as Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt.

Archaeological digs under the disputed Old City are a matter of immense sensitivity. For the managers of the Zionist state, archaeology is used to bolster claims of Jewish ownership of the land. Most Palestinians reject Israel’s sovereignty in the city and critics, Palestinian and non-Palestinian, point out Jewish history is exaggerated at the expense of other histories.

“It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 C.E.,” the antiquities authority statement said.

“The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising … not only its length but also the preservation of the leather scabbard [a material that generally disintegrates over time] and some of its decoration.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 12, 2011, on page 16.
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