The Hasmonean burial caves that were reportedly looted by local Arabs from Jericho..
(photo credit: YEDIDYA NEEMAN)
Arab residents of Jericho have reportedly looted second temple-era caves on the outskirts of the city.
The caves form part of an extensive burial ground of what's believed to be a Hasmonean palace, which was discovered in the area recently after agricultural and landscaping work was being done by local Arab farmers, according to a statement by right-wing NGO Regavim.
Professor Rachel Hachlili of Haifa University's Zinman Institute of Archaeology, who studied this region, noted that these caves are the largest Second Temple-era burial ground in Israel.
Preserving the Eternal said that hikers came across the scene where they found bones and human remains strewn all over, while the catacombs had been badly ransacked and looted of any valubles. It was also discovered that the sarcophagi (burial caskets) that had been resting in the caves for more than 2,500 years had disappeared.
According to the statement, antiquities theft and destruction of archaeological treasures is a rampant phenomana, which has alomost become common practice throughout Judea and Samaria.
"In this case, ancient catacombs were wiped out by illegal looting despite the constant stream of alerts, warnings, and documentation sent to the Regional Commander for Antiquities in the Civil Administration, the body responsible for law enforcement in the area," the organization said.
Yakhin Zik, Regavim director of operations said “the loss of our archaeological record and the ongoing failure to protect and preserve our heritage is an incomprehensible disgrace. The [Israeli] government must approve additional manpower and create standards that will ensure the preservation of antiquities and the severe punishment of looters.”
He added that this is not the first time that the theft of antiquities and the destruction of archeological properties are taking place in the region.
"Another burial cave was removed from the face of the earth by illegal quarrying in the area, despite numerous warnings to the Civil Administration that the area is in constant danger," he said.
Speaking on behalf of "Preserving the Eternal", Moshe Gutman said that "the time has come for those who make declarations about their commitment to our national legacy to open their eyes to the ISIS-style destruction that is happening all around us."
"I call upon the prime minister to take responsibility. It is inconceivable that a civilized country tolerates the plunder and devastation of word cultural heritage sites,” Gutman concluded.
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