A pair of ancient stone sarcophagi have been found in Israel's Ramat Gan Safari Park during construction works to expand an animal hospital.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the sarcophagi were originally discovered years ago, but the contractor who found them apparently didn’t realise what they were and moved them to a more remote spot where they remained, covered in dirt and vegetation, until now.
"We arrived at the Ramat Gan Safari Park as a result of vicissitudes that began some 25 years ago, when the park decided to build a parking lot," Uzi Rothstein from the IAA Theft Prevention Unit said as quoted by The Jerusalem Post. "The contractor cleared two stone structures and transported them to a farther area without having any idea of what he was dealing with."
Construction at the Ramat Gan Safari Park uncovered two 1,800-year-old #sarcophagi, ancient stone coffins.— TPS - Israel's News Agency (@TPS_News_co_il) February 18, 2021
According to @AntiquitiesIL the #Roman-era finds are styled after the prestigious sarcophagi made of Proconnesian marble from the island of Marmara. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/KIWdXJ17kO
The sarcophagi apparently date back to the time when what's now modern-day Israel was ruled by the Romans, with the decorations on them "very common in Pagan burials."
The similarity between the two sarcophagi has also reportedly led experts to suggest that they "may have belonged to a couple, husband and wife," not to mention that those buried within "must have been wealthy."
While the coffins' exact origins aren't immediately clear, the newspaper points out that the ancient city of Bnei Brak was once located near the area where the safari park is currently situated.
"It could be that the sarcophagi are connected to the ancient city, it could be that they are not," Rothstein remarked. "It's very rare to find sarcophagi in general and especially in their original site."
The sarcophagi are expected to be transferred to the Israeli National Treasures repositories next week.