September 25, 2009

Rare gem found in Israel identified

Experts said a 2,300-year-old gem discovered in Israel by a Philadelphia archaeological student has been identified as a semiprecious carnelian gemstone.

Megan Webb, 28, who spent her summer in a field program through the University of Washington Tel Dor Archaeological Excavations and Field School, discovered the stone when she traveled with about 24 students in July to an ancient Phoenician seaport on the coast.

I was digging within the Hellenistic walls, and working on the techniques that were taught to me, and leveling out the floor. And I had my trowel, working on the ground, and that's when (I found) the gemstone, Webb told the Philadelphia Daily News.

It was covered in dirt, but (I) could tell by the small size and shape that it was different than a rock, she said. It kind of stood out from anything else I had seen.

Sarah Stroup, director of the Field School at Tel Dor, said the stone, which bears the image of Alexander the Great, was identified as a carnelian gemstone.

Stroup said the stone was probably the most significant find to come out of the Mediterranean this year and maybe the last several years.