Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev archaeologists discovered the first-ever archeological evidence of a Jewish settlement in Beersheba from the Second Temple period, the IAA announced on Thursday.
The settlement was uncovered as part of a salvage dig conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Construction and Housing before building a neighborhood at the northern entrance of Beersheba.
“The remains of the settlement extend over an area of more than two dunams,” according to Peter Fabian and Daniel Varga, respectively from the Department of Bible, Archaeology and the Ancient Near East at the Ben Gurion University, and the IAA. This includes “various buildings and installations,” and “ancient refuse pits and an underground system that may have been used as a ritual bath.”
During the excavation, archeologists also found a fragment of a candle decorated with a picture of a nine-branched candelabra believed to be the earliest appearance of a menorah in art.
“This seems to be one of the earliest known appearances discovered of menorah found in art,” said Fabian and Varga. While the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem was said to have had seven branches, those not in the temple had anywhere between eight and 11. This is because the Babylonian Talmud stated that the Jewish people should not create a candelabra that replicates the one in Temple, hence the difference in branches.
The site dates back to 1st century CE until 135 CE, when Rome crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt. Openings were found during the excavation which the archeologists believe led to hiding places and escape routes during the rebellion.
There were also signs of a conflagration, which experts believe was during the Great Revolt – around the year 70 CE.
The site will be opened to the public on Monday.