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IDF reservists discover 1,500-year-old Byzantine oil lamp near Gaza border

An ancient oil lamp from the Byzantine period found by IDF reservists while on patrol near the Gaza border (Photo: Sara Tal/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Two IDF reservists on duty at a staging area near the Gaza border discovered a Byzantine-era clay lamp in the muddy ground. They contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority after realizing the importance of the item. 

Reservists Natanel Melchior and Alon Segev from the 404th Battalion of the 282nd Artillery Brigade were responsible for the discovery.

“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.” 

Sara Tal, an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist, identified the lamp as a “sandal candle” from the Byzantine period, about 1,500 years ago.

"The candle, which was common in antiquity, is made in a pattern and is typical of the lowlands and southern part of the Land of Israel." Tal said.

IDF reservists Netanel Melchior and Alon Segev find an ancient oil lamp from the Byzantine period while on patrol near the Gaza border (Photo: Sara Tal/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Around the same time, Alon posted a picture of the lamp to a Facebook group, where it attracted interest. Several people also suggested that he contact the IAA with the find. 

"The post gained momentum, it received dozens of comments and hundreds of likes,” Segev said. “Users made various suggestions regarding the role of the object. There, too, they recommended that we call the Antiquities Authority.” 

Tal came to meet the soldiers in the field, where she presented them with a certificate from the IAA to recognize their find. 

IAA Director Eli Escusido said: "The war introduces us to extraordinary situations on the archaeological front as well.” 

He highlighted the rich history of the Gaza Envelope area, which consists of about 50 southern Israeli communities situated close to the Gaza Strip.

"The land of Israel, especially the envelope, is saturated with history and ancient artifacts, and the Antiquities Authority cooperates with the IDF in order to preserve them even in a state of war,” Escusido said.

“I am glad that the ancient candle brought light to the soldiers' day, I commend their vigilance and the demonstration of good citizenship.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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