JERUSALEM — Israeli archaeologists excavating caves near the Dead Sea discovered jewelry, a makeup kit and a small mirror — 2,500-year-old fashion accessories for women.
The trove apparently belonged to Jews who returned from exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C., said Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
“This find is very rare. Both for the richness of the find and for that period, it is almost unheard of,” Tsuk said on Friday.
Using metal detectors, archeologists found the treasures under a stone-like accumulation of sediment thrown up by a nearby spring. They included a necklace made of 130 beads of semiprecious stones and gold; a scarab; an agate medallion of Babylonian origin; and a silver pendant with an engraved crescent moon and pomegranates.
What appears to be a makeup kit contained an alabaster bowl for powders, a stick to apply the cosmetics and a bronze mirror. They also found a pagan stamp showing a Babylonian priest bowing to the moon.
“These finds confirm the (biblical) accounts of Jews returning from exile in Babylon,” Tsuk said.
When the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 597 B.C., he sent many Jews into exile in Babylon. These Jews and their descendants were later allowed to return by the Persian monarch Cyrus in 538 B.C.
Tsuk said the find shows that there was a wealthy and flourishing community of returnees living in the area. “These are not the belongings of a simple person,” he said.
The archaeologists were part of a joint team from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv. They have been excavating caves near the Dead Sea for the last three years.