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IDF reservists stumble upon 1,500-year-old lamp

The artifact, a "sandal candle" dating from the Byzantine period, was found in a field, partially buried in mud.

A Byzantine oil lamp discovered by Israeli forces near the Gaza border. Credit: Sarah Tal/Antiquities Authority.
A Byzantine oil lamp discovered by Israeli forces near the Gaza border. Credit: Sarah Tal/Antiquities Authority.

Two Israeli reserve soldiers recently discovered a small, well-preserved Byzantine-era oil lamp at a military staging area in southern Israel near the Gaza border, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

The find, by Nathaniel Melchior and Alon Segev, part of the 404th Battalion within the Israel Defense Forces’ 282nd Fire Brigade, sparked a chain of events that led to the 1,500-year-old artifact’s safe handover to the IAA.

“During one of our wanderings in the field, I came across pottery lying upside down, and its round shape attracted me,” said Melchior. “It was covered in mud, I cleaned it and after I realized what it was about, I called the Antiquities Authority.”

Simultaneously, Segev shared an image of the discovery on a Facebook group. The photo drew a lot of attention and recommendations to contact the Antiquities Authority.

IAA archaeologist Sarah Tal identified the artifact as a “sandal candle” from the Byzantine period. Tal personally retrieved the lamp and presented the soldiers with a certificate of appreciation.

“The war often exposes us to extraordinary situations, even on the archaeological front. The land of Israel, particularly this surrounding region, holds a rich history and ancient treasures,” said IAA Director Eli Eskosido.

“In the event of finding an ancient relic, it is crucial to notify the inspectors so that researchers can gather as much information as possible about the site and its historical significance,” he emphasized.

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