Monday, July 13, 2015

Thief returns stolen Roman ballista stones

Amos Cohen, an employee of the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in Beersheba, did not believe his eyes last week when he opened a bag left in the museum’s courtyard containing two sling stones and a typed, anonymous note, written in Hebrew.
“These are two Roman ballista 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!”
Almost 2,000 such stones were found during the archaeological excavations in the Gamla Nature Reserve. The Romans shot these stones at the defenders of the city in order to keep them away from the wall, and in that way they could approach the wall and break it with a battering ram. The stones were manually chiselled on site by soldiers or prisoners.

One talent ballista (26 kg weight projectile). The heaviest versions could shoot up to three talents (78 kg), possibly much more.
Gamla was an ancient Jewish city on the Golan Heights, believed to have been founded as a Seleucid fort. It was the site of a Roman siege during the Great Revolt of the 1st century.
Gamla is a symbol of heroism for the modern state of Israel and an important historical and archaeological site. It lies within the current Gamla nature reserve and is a prominent tourist attraction.