Galilee woman proudly relinquishes archaeological collection from her basement


A Female resident of the northern town of Poriya Illit, reveals ancient sunken artifacts to the IAA, including pottery from the Biblical Period, all carefully stored in her basement.




The Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday the staggering find of a large number of ancient pottery pieces, fully intact and safely stored…in a basement.

Ancient Pottery – Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

It all began with a phone call to the IAA:  “In my basement there are full boxes of ancient vases and pottery, that a member of my family, a fisherman, left before he died…” said Osnat Lester, a resident of Galilee town Poriya Illit.

“I want to pass the pottery on to the state, and I want my grandchildren to know where to see them in the future,” explained Lester.

Soon after the phone call, two archaeologists from the IAA arrived at Lester’s Galilee home and were amazed to see the extent of the treasure: wrapped in cloth and stacked in boxes were a large number of whole pottery vessels, clearly very ancient and rare. The surface of the vases were encrusted with sea shells and other ocean sediments, including the occasional fossil. Most of the pieces were fully intact, and the rest were in large fragments, neatly wrapped in fabric.


Sunken Treasure

The pottery was ‘fished’ out of the Mediteranean Sea by a member of Osnat Lester’s family, a fisherman. This is not the first time finds like this have been made, and according to Yoli Shwartz, an IAA spokesperson, there is much to be found in the depths of the ocean.

Ancient pottery from the depths of the ocean

Ancient pottery from the depths of the ocean – Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Since thousands of years ago, the shores of Israel have been a focal point for many different maritime merchantry channels. Located smack in the middle between the ancient dynasties of Egypt and Lebanon, many maritime merchants have docked, traded, and sometimes sunk by the shore, leaving a trail of artifacts on the ocean floor.

The pieces in Lester’s home, according to the archaeologists, are from a wide range of time periods, the cargo of many sunken ships from ancient times.

The vases reportedly carried oils, food, and sometimes wine.

An especially beautiful vase with a tall frame and high handles was immediatley recognized as being from the time of the Biblical period, about 3000 years ago. Another remarkable piece was reported to be from the Roman period, some 2000 years ago, and yet another round urn was dated to the Byzantine period, about 1500 years ago.

Finding a sunken ship is like recieving a message from the past. Just from studying the artifacts an archaeologist can conclude the type of ship, the time period, what the merchandise included, and more.


Passing on the inheritance

“In the future we will be able to display the pottery to the enjoyment of the public in museums, instead of just having them locked up in a basement somewhere,” said Amir Ganor, head of the Robbery Prevention Unit in the IAA.

The Israel Antiquities Authory thanked Osnat Lester for being a Good Samaritan and revealing the treasure to the people of Israel. Thanks to Lester’s honesty, the IAA can investigate the pieces and perhaps take a few more steps into understanding the mysteries of the the ocean and the ancient land of Israel.


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