Winter 2002-2003



Did Tirat HaCarmel Produce a Saint?


The small town of Tirat Hacarmel abutting the southern entrance to Haifa may have been the home, and burial place, of a 13th or 14th century saint.

    University archeologists, engaged in an emergency excavation in October and November of a site prior to its being paved over for a new road, uncovered an impressive underground gravesite and artifacts suggesting the saintly status of the person interred.  The finds included a bronze ring bearing the likeness of a flower, an iron arrowhead, and a clay candle.

    The candle, almost completely intact and sooty, was found inside a rectangular niche above the grave itself.  According to archeologist Michael Eisenberg of the Universityís Zinman Institute of Archaeology, this indicates that the local population considered the deceased person holy and lit a candle above his grave.  He and co-director of the rescue excavation, Iris Groman-Yeroslavski, are unsure at this point whether the arrowhead was what caused the personís death or was a grave offering. 

    The archeology team did not excavate the grave itself or disturb the buried person for halakhic [Jewish law] reasons.

    The team first found an architectural complex dating back some 1,700 years to the Roman period.  In the center of this complex was a strong structure built of ashlar in the 5th or 6th century, under which were remains from Roman times toward the end of the 3rd century CE.  It was here that the archeologists found the underground grave, located under the floor paving of a small, square structure.

    It was not for nothing, apparently, that the Crusaders, who resettled this town several kilometers inward from the Mediterranean in the 13th century, called it St. Iohan de Tire.




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