For $30, tourists can excavate the ancient ruins of Maresha/Beit Guvrin for three hours. The area is full of caves rich with ancient artifacts, and it is not uncommon for excavators to find many “treasures” in the exposure. Usually these discoveries include Hasmonean oil lamps or pottery vessels, for recently volunteers uncovered a nearly intact inscription from the 2nd century B.C.
Three fragments of a Greek inscription, believed to be part of the “Heliodoros stele” were recently found at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at the National Park of Beit Guvrin.
The Heliodoros stele, dating back to 178 B.C.E. and consisting of 23 lines inscribed in limestone, is considered one of the most important ancient inscriptions found in Israel.
Dr. Dov Gera, who studied the inscriptions, determined that the fragments were actually the lower portion of “The Heliodoros stele”. This discovery confirmed the assumption that the stele originally stood in one of the temples located where Maresha-Beit Guvrin National Park stands today.
The new fragments were discovered in a subterranean complex by participants in the Archaeological Seminars Institute’s “Dig for a Day” program.
As published by Professors Cotton and Wörrle in 2007, this royal stone stele bears a proclamation by the Seleucid king, Seleucus IV (father of Antiochus IV). The contents of the stele shed light on the Seleucid government’s involvement in local temples, mentioning an individual named Olympiodoros, the appointed “overseer” of the temples in Coele Syria – Phoenicia, including Judea.
The order of the king was sent to Heliodorus, who was probably the same person mentioned in the book of II Maccabees. According to the story in Maccabees, Heliodorus, as the representative of King Seleucus IV, tried to steal money from the Temple in Jerusalem but instead was severely beaten as a result of divine intervention.
HT: Joe Lauer