Why are so many artifacts found by Israeli citizens?
Have you ever noticed how many stories there are of incredible artifact discoveries in Israel? Reports of construction crews discovering temple remains while digging in a new foundation or fishermen pulling up ancient shields while hauling in the morning catch, that sort of thing? It’s not just a coincidence! Those kinds of discoveries happen in Israel more than any other nation on earth.
But why Israel? What makes that nation so unique in this regard? Why is history seemingly frozen in a bubble, close enough for the average person to make archeological discoveries that would jump start a career in the West? For those answers, we have to take a look at what sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.
Israel is a very small country, but one with an immense history. Obviously, the importance of its biblical history cannot be overstated. It is the land of God’s chosen people and where Jesus himself lived and walked. It is home to some of the oldest and most important centers of the Christian faith - that alone would help explain the prevalence of artifacts discovered in the nation. But, that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
You also have to consider where Israel is in the world. Located near the center of the "cradle of civilization” Israel is a country that has directly witnessed many of the most important milestones and eras of history. Flanked by powerful neighbours like Egypt and Syria, and within the reach of the Greeks and Romans, Israel has both been a center of trade and a tempting target for civilizations on the grow.
It is a nation that has seen countless battles, wars, and occupations from various other cultures and empires. And every other nation that has come to Israel to trade or conquer has left their mark. Foreign coins, razed battlegrounds, once prominent trading hubs – all of these become the fodder for discoveries today. There are over 37,000 officially recognized archeological sites in Israel, you can barely throw a stone without hitting history!
While its history provides the opportunity of all these discoveries, it is Israel’s climate that truly provides the means to find them. This may seem like a mundane explanation, but the reason you see so many artifact discoveries in Israel is because it has a climate that can allow those discoveries to exist!
Israel is a beautiful country, but one with an arid climate and little rain fall. In countries like Canada that see heavy snowfall and rain every single year, moisture accumulates in the soil, corroding and spoiling anything left below. While a coin buried in Canadian top soil might corrode to illegibility within a few hundred years or even decades (just take a look at anything they dig up on The Curse of Oak Island), items can be plucked from Israel’s dry soil, brushed off, and often identified on the spot.
It isn’t just the moisture content of the earth that helps Israel here, but its composition. The dry, hard soil helps keep artifacts and items near the top. While something lost in a Canadian climate will slowly worm its way down several feet below the ground over the years, items tend to rest much closer to the surface in the Holy Land. This is why weekend gardeners and students out on a field trip can sometimes unearth real treasures!
Another major factor of why so many discoveries are made by average people is because we actually hear about them. Israeli culture celebrates the past and recognizes the value and importance it holds to its people as a whole. That’s why when someone accidentally strikes their spade against some ancient coins or a bronze age helm while digging up their garden, they don’t hold on to it and hope to privately sell it to a museum or collector for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Instead, common practice in Israel is to report the discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority for proper preservation.
It’s true that there are laws in Israel that state all discoveries should be turned over, so it would be easy to assume this was just people following the law. But similar statues exist in many other nations and are frequently flouted in the pursuit of riches. In Israel, it isn’t just the law, but the expectation of a fellow citizen. The IAA places a premium on community involvement in archeological sites, and such sites are the frequent location of field trips for young Israeli students who are raised to respect their shared history as belonging to everyone.
Despite their relative frequency compared to other parts of the world, these kinds of discoveries never get old. It is thrilling to imagine just how much Israel has left to discover and what it can teach us about the world, our history, and our Lord.