Just in time for Hanukkah, Israeli archaeologists say they’ve unearthed a fascinating find: a bracelet dating back to the Late Roman period, some 1,600 years ago, bearing the imprint of a seven-branched menorah.
The find came when a team working near Elyakim in the Mount Carmel National Park unearthed an ancient industrial zone, as well as the disposal pits used by a large community. The team was working to uncover any artifacts in the area ahead of the scheduled construction of a pool in Yokneam. The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the bracelet find on Tuesday, according to Arutz Sheva.
“During sorting the contents of one of the boxes,” dig directors Limor Taimi and Dan Kirzner said in the announcement, “Which included hundreds of broken glass thrown into a garbage pit, we found to our surprise, a small fraction of a bracelet.”
That bracelet, it turns out, was made of turquoise glass and stamped with the symbols of a seven-branched menorah. That’s the same sort of lamp that Jewish tradition holds illuminated the temple for eight days off one flask of oil.
The researchers believe that the imprint was stamped onto the bracelet while the glass was still hot. Another fraction of the bracelet, uncovered in the same area, shows the seven-branched menorah with flames.
This sort of bracelet was common during the Late Roman period in the area, but they are thought to have been quite expensive at the time. Other similar bracelets would usually bear a lamp or lion stamp, or different visages of gods and animals.
The menorah bracelet is thought to date back to the end of the Roman and early Byzantine period, around the end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth century AD. The researchers say that the discovery actually may raise even more questions regarding the population of the area in the time that the bracelet was made.
“The question now,” said Yael Gorin-Rosen, head of the glass department in the Israel Antiquities Authority, “is – is this any definite proof that the Jews lived here? Perhaps, but it could be that the Samaritans lived here, or a pagan or Christian population.”
The researchers say they know that the menorah fragment came from a bracelet, as opposed to any other sort of apparel or decoration, because of its diameter. The menorah as a motif is said to have been quite popular at the time of the bracelet’s making, as Gorin-Rosen tells Ha’aretz that similar fragments have been discovered at Bab el-Hawa in the northern Golan Heights, at Banias, and at Shikmona Haifa.
[Images via Ha’aretz.]