A 2,200-year-old bronze incense shovel found at Magdala after having been cleaned A 2,200-year-old bronze incense shovel found at Magdala after having been cleaned The 2,000-year-old bronze incense shovel after being cleaned. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

2,000-year-old bronze incense shovel discovered by archaeologists

The shovel and a jug found alongside it may have been used for ancient ritual ceremonies.

An exciting archaeological find was recently made in Israel along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. That's where a team of Israeli archaeologists, working alongside peers from Mexico, Italy, Chile and Spain, discovered a decorated bronze incense shovel and bronze jug, both of which are thought to be at least 2,000 years old.

The ancient incense shovelThe ancient incense shovel can be seen shortly after being discovered in Magdala. (Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Experts believe the ornate bronze shovel, called a mahta, would have been used for several purposes.

“From early research in the world it was thought that [it] was only used for ritual purposes, care for the embers and incense that were burnt in ritual ceremonies," said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the chief archaeologist at the site. "Over the years, after incense shovels were also discovered in non-cultic context, apparently they were also used as tools for daily tasks."

The shovel and jug were found next to one another on the floor of a storehouse on a former historic settlement in modern-day Magdala.The shovel and jug were found next to one another on the floor of a storehouse in Magdala. (Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The shovel and jug were found at an excavation site in Magdala, a Roman-era town that has borne several big finds, perhaps none more exciting than this one.

An aerial view of the archeological site where the incense shovel and jug were found.An aerial view of the archaeological site where the incense shovel and jug were found. (Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

"The volunteers were absolutely thrilled," said Eyad Bisharat, who supervised the excavation works. "They simply could not calm down knowing that these artifacts had been waiting just below the surface for 2,000 years. Even we veteran excavators were extremely excited because it's not every day that one uncovers such rare artifacts as these, and in such a fine state of preservation."

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