Archaeologists Unearth 1,700-Year-Old Oil-Lamp Workshop in Israel

by johnsmith

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have discovered an ancient ceramic oil-lamp workshop near Beit Nattif, a village about 20 km (12.4 miles) southwest of Jerusalem.

The Beit Nattif lamps. Image credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Beit Nattif lamps. Image credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

The archaeologists found hundreds of ceramic oil lamps, stone lamp molds and terracotta figurines at the Beit Nattif site.

“The figurines and the motifs on the lamps from the Beit Nattif region tell the story of the Judean Hills in the period following the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” said Dr. Benyamin Storchan, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“From Josephus’ writings, we know that in during the Second Temple period, Beit Nattif was a regional administrative center, one of the 10 principal cities under the Hasmonean rule.”

“After the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt and Roman takeover of the region, the local Jewish population of the Judean Hills was greatly diminished. In turn, the region was settled by pagans. The many figurines unearthed at the site attest to this.”

“Simultaneously, a small number of the ceramic oil lamps area decorated with distinctively Jewish symbols such as the shofar, incense burner, and seven-branched menorah.”

The Beit Nattif lamps are dated to the Late Roman period (3rd-4th century CE).

“The fragment tells us that Jewish life continued to exist in the Judean Hills, well after the rebellion’s failure,” Dr. Storchan said.

“The oil-lamp workshop produced these lamps in response to continued demand in the region.”

“During this period, Christianity also began to emerge, and some of the Beit Nattif oil-lamps carry fish motifs, one of the symbols of Christianity.”

“Therefore, the sheer variety of lamps and figurines proves that the local population featured a mix of pagans, Christians, and Jews.”


This article is based on text provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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