Cave explorers find ancient engravings in Israel

(JTA) – Hikers exploring caves in the Judean Hills in south-central Israel discovered ancient engravings of a menorah and a cross.

The members of the Israel Caving Club over the weekend discovered the etchings in the chalk bedrock of walls of an ancient cistern in the area known as the Judean Shephelah, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The cavers said they called the antiquities authority as soon as they realized the engravings they saw were likely authentic.

The menorah has a base with three feet, and it appears to portray the menorah that stood in the Temple courtyard in the Second Temple period. A cross was engraved near the menorah. Another engraving was found on the side of the cave resembling a type of key that is characteristic of antiquity, as well as other engravings, according to the antiquities authority,

The cross was likely engraved on the wall two centuries after the menorah, according to archaeologists.

Only two other etchings of menorahs have been discovered in the area.

The exact location of the discovery was not disclosed in order to protect the site and safety of hikers, according to the antiquities authority.

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