JERUSALEM, (AFP) — A massive storm that battered the eastern Mediterranean caused the collapse of a cliff in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, revealing a rare Roman-era marble statue, officials said on Tuesday.
“The big storm earlier this week caused the cliff to collapse and a statue from Roman times was found by a passer-by,” said Yoli Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The white marble statue of a woman, which weighs about 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) and stands 1.2 metres (nearly four feet) tall, has been removed from the site by the authority, which is studying it, she said.
The statue was missing its head and arms, apparently from earlier damage, but had “delicately carved sandals,” Schwartz told AFP.
The storm that hit the eastern Mediterranean earlier in the week with winds of over more than 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour) whipped up enormous waves, some as high as 12 metres (40 feet), that caused widespread damage.
While the collapse of the cliff in Ashkelon led to the discovery of the statue, the storm also endangered other important archaeological sites along the coast.
On Tuesday, officials said waves had destroyed the breakers protecting the Roman-era port of Caesarea, threatening to wash away the historic site.
Zeev Margalit, a spokesman for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said his agency had warned the government several times in recent months of the danger to the port, which was built by Herod and served as the seat of government for Pontius Pilate.
“If Israel does not react immediately then a major international heritage site will be lost,” he told AFP.