Road Work Leads to Discovery of WWII Graffiti

A 1,900-year-old ritual bath was defaced by Australian soldiers in Israel
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2014 8:45 AM CDT
Ancient Bath Yields WWII-Era Graffiti
WWII soldiers left their names on the ceiling of an ancient water cistern in May of 1940.   (Assaf Peretz/IAA)

An Israeli construction project to widen a major road unexpectedly uncovered a 1,900-year-old ritual bath and a 1,700-year-old water cistern. But when archaeologists went to inspect the finds, they found engravings left by two Australian soldiers on the water cistern's exposed ceiling. The marks were nothing fancy—two last names, the date (May 30, 1940), and soldier serial numbers, thereby enabling the researchers to identify them as Cpls. Philip William Scarlett and Patrick Raphael Walsh, reports LiveScience.

The findings "allow us to reconstruct a double story—about the Jewish settlement in the second century CE ... and another story no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the [same] site c. 1,700 years later," says the site's excavation director. He tells the Jewish Press that they "found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there, dating to the second century CE—among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug, and cooking pots." Construction workers have agreed to preserve the historical site and incorporate it into the natural landscape alongside the widening road. (Archaeologists recently found a swastika in Kazakhstan, which predates Hitler's time and means "good fortune" in Sanskrit.)

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