November 11, 2008—This stunningly intact 2,000-year-old gold, pearl, and emerald earring was discovered under a parking lot just outside Jerusalem's Old City.
The earring was found in the remains of a fourth- or fifth-century A.D. Byzantine-era structure, which the parking lot had been built over.
However, archaeological data indicate the earring was produced sometime from the second to the fourth century A.D., when the area was under Roman rule.
"Valuable objects such as these were handed down from one generation to the next," said Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who co-led the excavation.
"The time gap [between the Roman and Byzantine periods] is not so big, just 200 or so years."
"The earring was astonishingly well preserved, so much so that it seems it was manufactured only yesterday," he said.
This style of jewelry was typical of the Roman Empire and was likely worn by a woman of high status.
The bauble is similar to illustrations of jewelry found in tombs from Roman-era Fayum, Egypt, Ben-Ami said.
"These earrings are surprisingly reminiscent of the earring [from Jerusalem], and it seems that they were fashioned in a similar technique."
The new find may have been produced locally or may have reached Israel from Egypt via a trader, merchant, or other traveler, Ben-Ami said.
—Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel