Thief Returns Ancient Roman Artifacts: ‘They Brought Me Nothing But Trouble’
A pair of ancient Roman trebuchet stones were discovered outside a museum in southern Israel on Monday, accompanied by a cryptic note.
The artifacts were identified as two of the many thousands of such projectiles launched by Roman legions at Jewish rebels in 67 AD, during a battle for the northern city of Gamla.
The stones were left outside the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in Be’er Sheva. Judging by the content of the note, it seems as though the person who stole them 20 years previously was at last correcting his wrong.
The typed message from the unnamed individual was discovered by an employee of the museum, and began, “These are two Roman trebuchet balls from Gamla, from a residential quarter at the foot of the summit. I stole them in July 1995 and since then they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please, do not steal antiquities!”
Explaining the significance of the projectiles, Dr. Danny Syon, from the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “The Romans shot these stones at the defenders of the city of Gamla, in order to keep them away from the city walls.”
“In that way they could approach the wall and breach it with a battering ram. The stones were manually chiseled on site by soldiers or prisoners,” Syon continued.
The trebuchet balls will now be displayed in the National Treasures Department, while many other such stones from the Gamla region are already exhibited at the Gamla Nature Reserve.
In a land bursting with archeological treasures, this is not the first time that stolen antiquities have reached the Israel Antiquities Authority in a bizarre manner.
In one case, an Israeli returned a 2,000 year old Jewish coffin to the authorities. It had been kept in a bedroom in Tel Aviv until the man realized the morbidity of the find.