BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Rarest of Ancient Oil Lamps Proven to be Authentic

Not all Biblical artifacts found on the antiquities market are fakes

Rarest of Ancient Oil Lamps Proven to be Authentic

This stone oil lamp, once believed to be a forgery, has been proven to be one of the rarest types of ancient oil lamps.

Ancient oil lamps are not terribly rare in the archaeology of Israel. They are one of the more frequent types of Biblical artifacts found during archaeological excavations in the Holy Land. About ten years ago, however, a very special lamp surfaced in the archaeological world.

The lamp is made of stone, not clay, and has seven nozzles rather than the single nozzle typically found on ancient oil lamps made of stone. This lamp is unique–there are no other lamps of this type known among the thousands of Biblical artifacts found in the land of Israel.

Ten years ago, Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) editor Hershel Shanks was approached by the lamp’s owner, who wanted to have the rare artifact published in BAR. At the time, Shanks declined the offer, since the authenticity of the object—one of the rarest ancient oil lamps from the Biblical world—could not be confirmed.

The lamp resurfaced recently, however, when it was included in the list of Biblical artifacts found on the antiquities market that the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believed to be forgeries. Oden Golan, the Israeli antiquities collector at the center of the James Ossuary controversy,* stands accused by the IAA of having forged the ossuary and various other artifacts, including the stone oil lamp. During the IAA’s investigation, the lamp underwent a rigorous chemical analysis. The tests confirmed the authenticity of the piece, making it one of the rarest ancient oil lamps ever discovered.

So now, ten years later, BAR is delighted to present this extraordinary—and genuine—Biblical artifact to its readers.

* See “Is Oded Golan a Forger?” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2003.
 


 
Continue reading about the rare stone oil lamp in Hershel Shanks’s “Tainted Stone Oil Lamp Authenticated,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2011.

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