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2,000-Year-Old Strange-Looking Oil Lamp Found In City Of David

On early May 2021, while excavating the City of David National Park in Israel, a team of archaeologist  found a mysterious strange-looking oil lamp thought to be 2,000 years old. The lamp, which is made of bronze, is thought to be a building talisman to protect water sources for the city's residents. The 2,000-year-old artifact was discovered during excavations along an ancient "pilgrim road" that runs through the city of Jerusalem. Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered the lamp while excavating through the foundations of buildings along the route.

According to Ari Levy and Dr Yuval Baruch of the IAA, this rare lamp may have functioned as some kind of amulet to bring good luck to the occupants of the building. "This light offering may prove the importance of the building, which may be related to the protection of the Siloam Pool, the city's main water source," he said.

Rare Oil Lamp (Side View)
(Image Credit: Daily Mail)

The pilgrim's path or walkway is a Late Roman Age road that stretches from the holy Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem to the Pool of Siloam. The pool itself is a rock pool on the southern slope of the City of David, considered by many to be the thriving point of ancient Jerusalem. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the pilgrimage road was built under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The road leads to the Temple of Jerusalem, the holiest site in the Hebrew world.

Rare Oil Lamp (Top View)
(Image Credit: Daily Mail)

The lamp is thought to date from the first century AD, during the Roman Period following the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem (70 AD). The lamp had been shaped to resemble a bearded man's face sliced in half and was strange and contorted. The tip of the lamp is crescent-shaped and the handle resembles the Acanthus plant, one of the native plant species from the Mediterranean region.The archaeologist believed that the face resembled Roman artistic themes, especially theatrical masks.

Mr Levy, director of excavations, said: "The building where the lamp was found was built directly over the Pilgrimage Road at the end of the Second Temple period. Experts believe the lamp was originally attached to a flat object or wall inside the sacred Temple, which was lit during prayer ceremonies.

After the lamp was sent to an IAA laboratory, researchers found its wick, which was unusually well-preserved. The wick, which is a very rare find, was submitted for examination by Dr. Naama Sukenik, curator of organic materials at the IAA. Upon microscopic examination, she identified the wick as being made of flax. Future research will try and identify any oil residue left on the wick, which will help determine whether the lamp was used, and if so, what oil was used to light it.


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