The bronze lamp, shaped like a grotesque face that is cut in half, was intentionally deposited in the foundations of a building about 1,900 years ago as a foundation deposit, according to archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
“Decorated bronze oil lamps were discovered throughout the Roman Empire,” said IAA archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch.
“For the most part, such oil lamps stood on stylish candelabras or were hung on a chain.”
“Collections around the world contain thousands of these bronze lamps, many of which were made in intricate shapes, indicating the artistic freedom that Roman metal artists possessed.”
Dr. Baruch and colleagues found the 1,900-year-old bronze oil lamp during excavations in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem.
“This lamp is a unique find, and as far as we know, the first of its kind discovered in Israel. The uniqueness of the current object is that it is only half a face,” they said.
“It may have been simply a practical matter. The lamp may have been attached to a flat object or wall, serving as a wall lamp, but the possibility that it was an object used in some sort of ceremonial ritual should not be ruled out.”
The archaeologists also found a well-preserved wick made of flax inside the lamp.
“Foundation deposits (offerings) were prevalent in the ancient world and were intended for luck, and to ensure the continued existence of the building and its occupants, and they were usually buried under the floors of buildings or foundations,” said Dr. Baruch and IAA archaeologist Dr. Ari Levy.
“The building where the lamp was discovered was built directly on top of the Pilgrimage Road at the end of the Second Temple period,” Dr. Levy added.
“The construction of such a massive structure in the period after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem demonstrates the importance of the area even after the destruction of the Second Temple.”
“It is possible that the importance of the building, and the need to bless its activity with luck by burying a foundation deposit, was due to its proximity to the Siloam Pool, which was also used in the Roman period as the central source of water within the city.”