JERUSALEM – A tiny golden bell pulled after 2,000 years from an ancient sewer beneath the Old City of Jerusalem was shown Sunday by Israeli archaeologists, who hailed it as a rare find.
The orb half an inch (one centimeter) in diameter has a small loop that appears to have been used to sew it as an ornament onto the clothes of a wealthy resident of the city two millennia ago, archaeologists said.
When Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority shook it Sunday, the faint metallic sound was something between a clink and a rattle.
The bell's owner likely "walked in the street, and somehow the golden bell fell from his garment into the drainage channel," Shukron said.
The relic was found last week. Shukron said it was the only such bell to be found in Jerusalem from the Second Temple period, and as such was a "very rare" find. The Second Temple stood from about 515 B.C. until A.D. 70.
The biblical Book of Exodus mentions tiny golden bells sewn onto the hem of the robes of Temple priests, along with decorative pomegranates. The artisans in charge of making the priestly clothes and implements, according to the Bible, "made bells of pure gold, and attached the bells around the hem of the robe between the pomegranates."
It was not know whether this bell was attached to a priestly garment. It is engraved with a pattern of circular channels starting at the top.
The bell was found inside the Old City walls, a few paces from the site of the Jewish Temples -- the sacred compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The compound is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden-capped Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock.
The excavation of the sewer is part of the City of David excavations in the oldest section of Jerusalem, which lies just outside the current city walls and underneath the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. In the past, Palestinians have objected to Israeli excavations in that area.
The sewer, which Jewish rebels are thought to have used to flee the Roman legionnaires who razed Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70, is set to open to the public later this summer.