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Israeli woman stumbles upon Roman busts near ancient ruins

Israeli archaeologist Eitan Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority shows off two late Roman busts unearthed near the ancient city of Beit Shean following a chance find by a woman walker
GALI TIBBON (AFP)

An Israeli woman walking near ancient ruins noticed a head sticking out of the ground, leading to the uncovering of two Roman-era busts, archaeologists said Sunday.

The life-size sculptures, carved in limestone, were found in the northern city of Beit Shean earlier this month, with the Israel Antiquities Authority dating them to the late Roman period, some 1,700 years ago.

The well-preserved busts are of men, one of them bearded, sculpted in the Oriental style that was becoming fashionable at the end of the Roman period, according to Eitan Klein, deputy head of the IAA's theft prevention unit.

The area was a major city during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods.

"Busts like these were usually placed near or in a burial cave, and they may have represented the image of the deceased along general lines," Klein said in a statement.

The IAA said the finder would receive a "certificate of appreciation" for her good citizenship in reporting her find to the authorities rather than taking them for herself.

The busts were expected to be put on public display after researchers gleaned what information they could from them.

CLARA AMIT / ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

A number of artifacts and ruins from the Roman and Byzantine eras have been unearthed near Beit Shean and surrounding areas. The Roman busts, found several kilometers outside of the national park, likely were exposed by recent heavy rainfall.

In 2015, an art dealer in northern Israel was arrested after it was discovered he illegally obtained 3,000 ancient coins about 8 kilometers from Beit Shean.

The suspect, who has not been named, is a licensed antiquities dealer said that he found the coins in the fields around the kibbutz. He was charged with attempting to sell the coins abroad without an export permit, the IAA said in a statement.

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