Archaeologists uncover 1,600-year-old menorah bracelet on Hanukkah

Last day of Mount Carmel excavation turns up rare turquoise glass shard

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

A 1,600-year-old glass shard imprinted with two menorahs, one fully lit (Courtesy: Israel Antiquities Authority)
A 1,600-year-old glass shard imprinted with two menorahs, one fully lit (Courtesy: Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologist Limor Talmi was minutes away from wrapping up her excavation of an ancient garbage pit last Thursday, when a piece of 1,600-year-old glass was brought to her, bearing imprints of menorahs.

The timing was fortuitous, not only because she was readying to close up shop but because it was also the second day of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday most closely associated with the seven-branched candelabra.

“Like in a good story, on the last day, when we needed to finish the dig, in the last box, in the last half hour, when we said, ‘That’s it, yalla, we need to close up and go,’ the head of the glass department brought this item to show me,” Talmi told the Haaretz daily.

The shard, found in the Mount Carmel national park near Elyakim during an Israel Antiquities Authority dig of refuse pits, features two menorahs. One of the menorahs is shown with its candles lit.

Three other bracelets bearing menorah imprints have been found in Israel — two in the Golan Heights and one in Haifa.

Yael Gorin-Rosin, head of the IAA glass department, said that this type of jewelry was usually found at grave sites. “It is rare to find such objects in settlement layers, and it’s even rarer to find them in an ancient garbage pit,” she told the NRG website.

Archaeologists believe that the area was populated by a number of communities, including Jews, Samaritans, and pagans.

“This area seems to have been an industrial center for glass making, and was not agricultural land, but had an urban character instead. We see that there was trade between the coast and the valley,” said Talmi.

She added that she could not say definitively the bracelet belonged to Jews, since Samaritans also used Jewish motifs.

The IAA excavation was being performed ahead of the construction of a Mekorot water company reservoir at the site.

“Yes, it is exciting that on Hanukkah the imprint of the menorah was found, and the message of it is to continue to do what we are doing, to discover the past and to discover ourselves,” reflected Talmi.

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