Archaeologists discover rare incense shovel in Israel

On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel, archaeologists report that they have uncovered a rare decorated bronze incense shovel and bronze jug.

The artifacts were unearthed at a site called Magdala, a large Jewish settlement that dates to about 2000 years ago— the Early Roman period— where archaeologists have already discovered ancient streets, ritual baths, a marketplace, a mosaic-floored synagogue, and the famous Magdala stone.

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“The incense shovel that was found is one of ten others that are known in the country from the Second Temple period,” Dina Avshalom-Gorni, chief archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

The incense shovel could have been used for rituals, like handling embers used in ceremonies, but it also might have had a practical, daily use as well, Avshalom-Gorni said. Both the shovel and the bronze jug were found on the floor of a storehouse, near the site’s docks, and could have been a family’s heirlooms.

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Arfan Najar, an archaeologist with Israel Antiquities Authority, referred to the incense shovel as “a very rare find.” Similar shovels have been found in other locations in Israel, she said.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, Magdala— the ancient site where artifacts were uncovered— once served as a military base in the Jewish-Roman conflict, and in the Christian tradition, it’s known as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.