They took me into the basement of an ancient house where more arab families lived. They showed me a series of tunnels that led down into a series of burial chambers where I had to stoop low and be careful not to hit my head. As an amateur, I didn't recognize ritual baths as such until later. There were hebrew characters written in these small rooms. Burial boxes were broken and had obviously been looted long, long ago. Incomplete skeletal remains were everywhere.
I was exhausted by all the effort it took just to squeeze into these tiny rooms. I asked the boys if we could stop and rest. They pointed to what they called 'the teepee room'. It was shaped just like a pointed pyramid and featured a vent blackened by ancient fires. People had written their initials and messages in the black soot. Names and dates appeared that were from the 19th Century. There was also a primitive type of tick-tack-toe that only had six boxes, the boys motioned to the act of rolling dice. Later, I learned that these were Roman soldiers who gambled, a popular dice game. We finally left the tunnel complex via a vacant lot behind the ruins of an ancient church. Tour groups that were walking inside the church saw us leave and started asking me questions. I acted like I didn't understand them. I gave the boys some pocket money and wished them Good-bye. When our bus left the hotel next morning both of them were waving and watching me from a crowd of hustlers selling their postage cards and pictures. The little guy ran up to me and handed me an old figurine wrapped in a bunch of newspaper.
Later, I showed it to one of the teaching professors in our group that worked at the British Museum. He looked at it for a real long period of time before asking where I found it. He said it was a valuable funerary figurine, which ancient Roman's used to worship their family ancestors. He convinced me to donate it to his museum.
I wouldn’t have shown it to anyone. It would have been in MY collection. ‘Course it would be difficult to get past customs with something like that. I LOVE reading about Biblical (times) archeological finds.
Sounds like Indiana Jones stuff.
Another personal experience detailing the ruination of irreplacable historical sites by Arabs. How sad.