Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend today, but 900 years ago precious metals had to do.
That much was clear when 2,500 student volunteers helped unearth a rare collection of women’s jewelry featuring bronze and silver rings, bracelets and earrings during a recent excavation at Givat Tittora in Modi’in.
According to the Antiquities Authority’s excavation director Avraham Tendler, the bounty appears to have been accidentally dropped in the kitchen of an ancient Crusader tower in the area.
Tendler said the authority, in cooperation with the Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut Municipality, is conducting a “cultural-educational” excavation of the ancient site with local students from the fourth through 12th grades.
“Everyday, a class of schoolchildren comes to work at the archeological site, alongside pensioners and volunteers who live in the town,” he said.
“The excavation’s aim is both educational and social to provide residents of all ages with the opportunity to uncover their cultural heritage directly, and without mediation.”
Tittora Hill, where the dig took place, he added, is a “unique and fascinating site” within the municipal boundaries of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut.
Previous archeological excavations on the hill have revealed evidence of its occupation from the Chalcolithic period (c. 6,000 years ago) up to the modern era.
“The hill is in a strategic location, on the main ascent route from the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem, and is surrounded by fertile valleys that were used as farmland able to support the hill’s inhabitants throughout the generations,” said Tendler.
“The students and volunteers from Modi’in have exposed the inner courtyard of the Crusader fortress,” he continued. “Here, the fortress’s occupants cooked and baked for hundreds of years during the Middle Ages, some 900 years ago.”
Ancient clay ovens (tabuns), cooking pots, jars, serving dishes, and a table were also discovered in the kitchen, as well as numerous remains of food such as olive pits, pulses, charred grape pips, and animal bones.
“It seems that the cooks of the time were not sufficiently careful with the jewelry they wore while cooking and baking, since numerous pieces of jewelry have been found in the excavation, some made of bronze and silver,” explained Tendler.
The majority of jewelry was discovered by volunteer archeologist Mati Yohananoff.
“Throughout the entire site, we have found many metal objects, including coins, rings, bracelets and cosmetic tools,” Yohananoff said. “These finds indicate the kind of activity traditionally associated with women’s domestic work.”
Vered Bosidan, project coordinator on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, said long-standing residents of the community also enthusiastically assisted in the excavation.
“I was excited to discover a mixed, cohesive, and caring community in the city of Modi’in,” said Bosidan.
“The local residents have a special connection with Tittora Hill, and I am sure that it will be strengthened even more as a result of the archeological excavation. The enthusiasm begins with the younger generation – with activities carried out by the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] in the schools – and makes its way into the homes, to the parents and the extended family.”
She continued: “It is there that the seeds are sown that result in the development of an awareness of antiquity preservation.”
Noting the historic significance of Tittora Hill, Modi’in’s Mayor Chaim Bibas said the municipality is working to create an urban nature park which will make the site more accessible for the public.
“Tittora Hill symbolizes the connection between ancient Modi’in and the glorious history of this part of the country, and the modern city that exists today,” said Bibas.
“The hill contains many historical and archeological finds, and I believe that the many passersby who visit it deserve the opportunity to find out about them, in addition to the right to enjoy this unique, green corner of the city.”
Meanwhile, mentioning the riches found in the dig, the mayor said more excavations are imminent.
“In view of its tremendous success, the project will continue next year,” he said.