An Urban Legend in Archaeology – Updated

There is an urban legend in archaeology that the most important finds will be discovered 1) at the end of the excavation, or 2) by sheer accident. My father had a discovery on Wednesday morning that qualified both ways.

My father (Royce Chandler) and I were excavating in a room that was scheduled to finish up and close down on Wednesday, July 22nd. On this final day in the room, my father leaned his hand against the wall and accidentally caused a stone to fall out onto the ground. Behind where the stone had been, Royce saw a shiny turquoise circle. We called Guy Stiebel, the area archaeologist (also the chief excavator at Masada), to see it. When Guy saw the glass he took a keen interest. It turned out to be a complete ancient glass bottle that had been placed on its side into the wall during construction. Glassware such as this is common in burial locations, but very uncommon in this situation.

The glassware should help pin down the date when the building was constructed. Guy personally excavated the glass out of the wall over a 2+ hour period. During this time, many people digging in other areas came over to see the glass bottle. The site photographer (Dr. David Adams) took time to shoot the glass from various angles and even used Royce in a few shots as a model to provide scale. There were other interesting finds during the week, but none generated the excitement of this one.

National Geographic has provided a grant for the Elah Fortress excavation, and in return has certain publishing rights regarding the finds. It is not yet certain if posting a picture of the glass bottle on this space would violate the conditions of the grant, so I will hold off for now. Perhaps the following photo lends an idea of the bottle’s gravitas.


Adam Fraser (from Ottawa, Canada) and Professor Guy Stiebel in heavy contemplation of the embedded ancient glass bottle. This find was quite accidental, and quite important.

Guy excavating

Guy excavating the glass bottle from the wall. It took him over two hours to remove it due to the delicate nature of the glass, to extensive photography, and to the large flow of people "dropping by" to see it.

Update: I received permission to post a photo of the glass bottle. Here it is:

The glass bottle "in situ"

The glass bottle "in situ"

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads popular study tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in General Archaeology, Israel, Overseas trips, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An Urban Legend in Archaeology – Updated

  1. afrankangle says:

    Great that you had some next-level excitement! Congratulations …. and simply initiated by casually leaning against the right spot on a wall.

  2. Pingback: Life at an archaeological dig can be fun « Ferrell’s Travel Blog

  3. Pingback: Off to the ASOR meeting in NOLA, USA « Luke Chandler's Blog

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