Bible and archaeology news
Over the weekend, during the Hanukkah holiday and the last days of 2016, Israel Caving Club members Mickey Barkal, Sefi Givoni and Ido Meroz were exploring caves in the Judean Shephelah when they noticed what appeared to be ancient carvings. They notified the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who confirmed that the markings were indeed ancient in an IAA press release. Carved on the chalk wall of a water cistern were a seven-branched menorah with a three-legged base—representing the Temple menorah from the Second Temple period—as well as a cross, a Christian symbol. Near the menorah and cross were additional engravings that are still being identified.
“There are buildings and hiding refuges from the time of the Bar-Kokhba uprising (second century C.E.) at the site and buildings that date to the Byzantine period,” explained Saar Ganor, the District Archaeologist of Ashkelon for the IAA, in the press release. “It is rare to find a wall engraving of a menorah, and this exciting discovery, which was symbolically revealed during the Hanukkah holiday, substantiates the scientific research regarding the Jewish nature of the settlement during the Second Temple period.”
“The menorah was probably etched in the cistern after the water installation was hewn in the bedrock—maybe by inhabitants of the Jewish settlement that was situated there during the Second Temple period and the time of Bar-Kokhba—and the cross was etched later on during the Byzantine period, most likely in the fourth century C.E.,” said Ganor.
Ganor told Ilan Ben Zion of the Times of Israel that while the carvings couldn’t be dated with scientific testing, the IAA has determined the carvings’ antiquity based on their patina as well as the water cistern’s closeness to a late Roman–Byzantine period archaeological site.
The IAA plans to continue investigating the water cistern, but will not reveal its exact location at this time for the protection of both the site as well as amateur explorers.
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