Mother and daughter discover clay lamp from Hellenistic period

Second century BCE relic dates to Judah Maccabee’s battles against ruler of Antiochus.

December 12, 2017 11:25
2 minute read.
Right: Hadas Goldberg Keidar holding the clay lamp she found. Left:  A close up of the 2,200 year ol

Right: Hadas Goldberg Keidar holding the clay lamp she found. Left: A close up of the 2,200 year old clay lamp.. (photo credit: NIR DISTELFELD/ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY + MIK)


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A leisurely afternoon hike in the North through Beit She’an Valley turned into much more when a mother and daughter discovered a clay oil lamp dating to the Hellenistic period 2,200 years ago – when Judah Maccabee fought against the ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

While making their way through the mounds near the historic area by the Jordan River Valley one week ago, Hadas Goldberg-Kedar, seven, and her mother, Ayelet, first noticed the well-preserved pottery vessel near the entrance to a porcupine cave.

Ayelet assumed the relic was left by antiquities thieves and contacted the Antiquities Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit to report the find.

In short order, Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the unit – which is dispersed throughout the country to prevent thieves from looting excavation sites – arrived and examined the lamp.

Distelfeld determined that the porcupine uncovered the rare find while digging its enclosure for the winter.

According to Dr. Einat Ambar-Armon, education and community coordinator for the Antiquities Authority’s northern region, the clay oil lamp is characteristic of the 2nd century BCE’s Hellenistic period, during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

“During this period, clay oil lamps began to be produced in formations: The upper and lower parts were produced separately and were then joined together,” said Ambar-Armon.

“The new technique enabled the mass production of oil lamps, as well as the addition of a variety of decorations. In later periods, candles and other Jewish decorations sometimes appeared on the oil lamps.”

The discovery of the lamp, she said, attests to the activity that existed in the Beit She’an Valley during the Hellenistic period.

“It is particularly interesting to note that in 1960, another lamp was randomly discovered at Kibbutz Heftziba with fascinating inscriptions from the Hellenistic period,” Ambar-Armon noted.

“This inscription, written in Greek, is actually a copy of the state correspondence between Antiochus III, who was the first ruler of the Seleucid family, and the regional Seleucid governor. Antiochus III, who is mentioned in the inscription, tended to be merciful toward the Jews, in contrast to his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, also known as ‘Antiochus the Evil,’” she explained.

Ambar-Armon noted that in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, unprecedented decrees and persecution against Jews eventually led to the outbreak of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks in 167 BCE.

Goldberg-Kedar and her daughter donated the oil lamp to the Antiquities Authority and received a certificate of recognition for good citizenship.

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