TEL AVIV (Nov. 29)
An intense sweep by Israeli archaeologists in the region of Jericho has prompted strong accusations by Palestinians and some Israeli archaeologists that the Jewish state is trying to deplete the Dead Sea area of all remains before the Palestine Liberation Organization establishes self-rule in the area.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, claiming the massive digs were previously planned, has fanned out over a score of sites in the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found 46 years ago.
However, the massive archaeological sweep appears to be clearly linked with the approaching time when at least part of the area will pass into the hands of Palestinian authorities.
Opponents of the activity have accused the Antiquities Authority of organizing the more than 20 archeological teams to prevent any possible indications of early Holy Land Jewish settlement from falling into non-Jewish hands.
Hundreds of Israeli archaeologists equipped with metal detectors, aluminum ladders and rappelling equipment for scaling cliffs have already unearthed a treasure trove of important material, including papyrus documents in Hebrew dating back to the time of the Bar-Kochba revolt, between 132 and 135 C.E.
The most important find so far has been a complete 5,000-year-old skeleton.
The skeleton of a man, found lying in a fetal position, is that of a warrior, according to the bow and arrows lying at his side. Fragments of his uniform were wrapped about his bones.
Any remains found in the region will most likely be hotly contested, as the Dead Sea Scrolls have long been.
Israel is a signator to the Hague Convention of 1954, which stipulates that an occupying power must protect antiquities found in the conquered territory and may not remove them.
But the Hague accord also stipulates that cultural property is part of a people’s history. The question that will no doubt be raised is, whose history?