In a cemetery somewhere in Jerusalem, a groundskeeper uncovers a dazzling object buried underground. Is it a forgotten ancient relic – perhaps an artifact from the city’s troubled past? The experts are stumped. That is, until a Facebook post reveals the unlikely truth.
The story began back in June 2015, when an unnamed worker was carrying out maintenance work at a burial ground in Jerusalem in Israel. While digging about five feet underground, the laborer discovered a mysterious plastic pipe.
Intrigued, the worker looked inside the pipe – only to discover a strange object wrapped in a length of cotton. But when the fabric was unwound, something truly bizarre lay there. Indeed, it was a find that would baffle experts for the following six months.
Weighing around 19 pounds, the object was a dazzling gold color. Strangely, moreover, it was marked by a series of regular grooves and had two handle-like knobs at each end. Baffled, the worker decided to hand his discovery over to the experts at Israel’s Antiquities Authority. After all, perhaps they could shed some light on the puzzling find.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, or IAA, was founded in 1948, soon after the State of Israel was established. Taking over from the British Department of Antiquities in Israel, it became responsible for the many ancient historical relics associated with this part of the world.
Based in Jerusalem, the IAA also oversees excavation and conservation work across the region. In fact, it has been responsible for studying several high-profile archaeological discoveries over the years. And having investigated everything from the Roman Lod mosaic to the Dead Sea Scrolls, its staff are experts in unraveling ancient mysteries.
However, when the worker brought them the mysterious golden item that he had found beneath the cemetery, those same experts were dumbfounded. Despite the organization being home to many experienced researchers and scientists, nobody seemed able to shed any light on the piece.
Keen to get to the bottom of the mystery, then, researchers at the IAA ordered a series of tests to be performed on the object. But after X-rays and analyses were conducted, they were still baffled as to its origins. In fact, they couldn’t even get a handle on what time period it might be from.
For six months, researchers tried in vain to identify the strange entity. Slowly, then, excitement began to build. Could they have stumbled upon one of Jerusalem’s famous lost treasures? And if so, what ancient knowledge or historical learnings might this discovery represent?
As one of the world’s oldest cities, Jerusalem has plenty of legends and rumors concerning treasures buried beneath its streets. The most famous of these relate to Solomon’s Temple, which is thought to have been built almost 3,000 years ago.
Sometimes known as the First Temple, Solomon’s Temple occupies a significant position in Jewish history. In fact, it is even held to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Bible, the Ark was a gold-covered chest which held the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been written.
On top of its religious relics, Solomon’s Temple is also thought to have been home to an array of more worldly riches. Allegedly, parts of it were lined with Lebanese cedar and covered in gold. And according to some, this plating alone would be worth some $270 million in today’s money.
Other treasures believed to have once resided in Solomon’s Temple include an ivory throne, silver shields and a hoard of precious stones. Sadly, though, its glory wasn’t to last. When Solomon died in the 10th century BC, the temple was plundered, and its riches were scattered across the Middle East.
However, there are those who believe that some of the temple’s treasures never left Jerusalem and that they remain hidden in the city to this day. So when the worker stumbled across a mysterious golden object buried beneath the cemetery, it’s easy to see why it may have generated a lot of excitement – and conjecture.
Although experts at the IAA initially assumed that the object had a practical use, they soon started speculating. “At first we thought it was a military object,” head of robbery prevention, Amir Ganor, said in a 2015 interview with The Independent. “But then [we] began to dream.”
In fact, Ganor claimed that the discovery was the most mysterious he had ever encountered throughout his long career. In six months, after all, basically all they had managed to learn was that the object was constructed from just a single metal and was plated with nickel gold.
With nothing else to go on, then, the IAA turned to the internet for help. Posting a photograph of the item on its Facebook page, the Authority invited its thousands of followers to take a guess at what it was. Amazingly, moreover, there were hundreds of responses.
Among the guesses were some bizarre suggestions, including the ideas that it was a musical instrument, a massage tool or a rolling pin. Amusingly, there were even those who thought that it might be some kind of ancient adult toy. Then, an Italian poster named Micah Barak broke the case wide open.
Eagle-eyed Barak noticed that, far from being an ancient relic, the object was actually a New Age gadget known as a Weber Isis Beamer. Produced by a German company and sold over the web, the device is believed to protect the wearer against the harmful effects of radiation.
And although some have been quick to mock the IAA and its apparent misidentification of a very modern curiosity, others have cast doubt on the story. As one commenter pointed out, the object has clearly been turned on a lathe – dating it firmly within the past few hundred years. So did the experts really believe that they may have had a lost treasure on their hands? Or might a little artistic license have been added to the story?