Antiquities Authority unearths 1,600 yr-old glass bracelet with menorah inscription during Hanukka excavation



Israel Antiquities Authority announced that a glass fragment dating late Roman – early Byzantine periods, was found during a Hanukka excavation an Mt. Carmel National Park.


A fragment of a glass bracelet inscribed with a seven-branched menorah from the Second Temple was discovered during Hanukka at an excavation in the Mount Carmel National Park, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

1600 years old glass bracelet fragment with menorah engravings . – Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

According to a statement from the IAA, excavations were carried out there in recent weeks prior to the construction of a water reservoir for the city of Yokne’am, at the initiative of the Mekorot Company.

During the excavation, an industrial region and refuse pits were exposed which were part of a large settlement that existed in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods, during the end of the fourth Century and beginning of the fifth Century CE, the IAA said.

The excavation’s co-directors Limor Talmi and Dan Kirzne said in the statement that last Thursday they made the findings at the end of the dig.

“While examining the contents of one of the boxes, which contained hundreds of glass fragments that had been discarded in the refuse pit, we found to our surprise a small fragment of a bracelet,” they said in a joint statement.

“Naturally it was extremely dirty, but still, you could see it was decorated. After cleaning, we were excited to discover that the bracelet, which is made of turquoise colored glass, is decorated with symbols of the seven-branched menorah – the same menorah which according to tradition was kept alight in the Temple for eight days by means of a single cruse of oil.”

The researchers added that they believe the bracelet was embossed with the decoration while the glass was still hot.

“Stamped impressions of two menorot survived on the small fragment that was found – one a plain seven-branched menorah, of which only the surface of the menorah is visible and the other one consisting of a seven-branched menorah with flames depicted above its branches,” they said.

According to Yael Gorin-Rosen, head of the IAA’s Ancient Glass Department “bracelets and pendants made of glass that are decorated with symbols of a menorah or lion or different images of gods and animals, are known during these periods in Israel, Lebanon and Syria.”

“So far, three fragments of bracelets with menorah decorations have been discovered in archaeological excavations in the country: in an excavation at Bab el-Hawa in the northern Golan Heights, at Banias, and another bracelet that was discovered years ago in the excavations at Shiqmona, Haifa,” she said.

“The Shiqmona bracelet is also adorned with an image of a menorah that has flames above it.”

Rosen-Gorin explained that jewelry such as this was found in excavations usually in the context of funerary offerings.

“It is unusual to find such objects in settlement strata, and even rarer to discover them in an ancient refuse pit,” she added.

The IAA researchers said that while the findings may provide proof that Jews lived in the ancient settlement, it is also possible that Samaritan, Pagan or Christian populations resided there.

Another hypothesis, they said, suggests that the bracelet comes from a workshop operating in the area and was intended for other markets.

“This possibility is based on other glass debris that was exposed in the refuse pit, among them beads and bracelets, the archeologists said.

“Glass jewelry was used extensively in the late Roman period, and we can reasonably assume that those items that were specially decorated were more expensive than the plain unornamented ones,” they said.

“The refuse that was discovered in the pit included numerous glass vessels and fragments of glass window panes, as well as a selection of jewelry, indicative of a population that lived a life of comfort and affluence.”

Therefore, it is conceivable that the large industrial area that was located there supported the residents of the nearby settlement, they theorized.


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