Hasmonean-Era Oil Lamp Discovered in the City of David

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A 2,000-year-old oil lamp, dated to the Hasmonean Era and preserved in its entirety was discovered in the archaeological excavation of the Pilgrimage Road in the City of David. The Pilgrimage Road is the monumental thoroughfare upon which pilgrims of Second Temple period ascended to the Temple Mount.

The clay oil lamp, uncovered by Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists who conduct the dig, is decorated with geometric patterns including that of a branch and leaves on the lamp’s spout.  

This kind of lamp is typical of the first century B.C.E. – the final years of Hasmonean rule at the end of the Second Temple period.


Archaeologist Rikki Zalut Har-Tuv describes the moment of discovery

“I remember I was sitting beside the archaeologists table and one of the workers came up to me with something hidden between his hands and said to me: ‘Guess what I found!’ And then he opened his hands and showed me a complete lamp. I was really excited,” recounts Archaeologist Rikki Zalut Har-Tuv, Field Director from the City of David (Ir David Foundation).


Oil lamp from the end of the Second Temple period. Photo Credit: Koby Harati

According to the Excavation Director from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Archaeologist Ari Levy, “these lamps had a variety of uses – from simple daily use for lighting buildings and street lighting, to use in religious rituals such as Shabbat and Hanukkah lamps.” He continued, “in further research, we will empty the contents of the lamp and examine what kind of oil was used to light it.”

Zalut Har-Tuv adds that, “we are used to finding only pottery shards and parts of lamps, but to find a complete lamp, that’s not something that happens every day and it’s a really exciting event.”

For additional finds in the City of David >>

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