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A Stone Oil Lamp with Seven Nozzles Carved with Jewish Symbols from the Late Second Temple Period.

A circular oil lamp 22 cm in diameter with seven nozzles was archaeometrically studied to verify its authenticity. Traditional Jewish decorations are carved in the upper part of the lamp: a seven-branched Menorah (candelabrum), wheat ear, a basket with figs, pomegranates, date palm tree, grape leaf and grapes, olive branches and barley ear. Most of the symbols are similar to those found on Jewish coins of the period. It is made of silica-enriched chalk of the Early Senonian sequence exposed in the Jerusalem area. This oil lamp is the product of the Jewish limestone industry that flourished during the late Second Temple period in Jerusalem (first century CE), related to religious purity laws. The prevalence of malleable silicified chalk in the Jerusalem environs and sophisticated processing techniques such as use of a lathe facilitated the production of this stone oil lamp. The distribution of the chemical elements of the patina is identical to those elements found in the stone. Soot was found embedded within the multi-layered patina which is attached firmly to the lamp’s outer and inner surface. Microcolonial fungi structures and minerals are indicative of natural long-term development in a subsurface burial setting. All of these factors reinforce its authenticity.

By Amnon Rosenfeld
Emeritus, Geological Survey of Israel
Jerusalem, Israel

Shimon Ilani
Geological Survey of Israel,
Jerusalem, Israel

W.E.K. Krumbein
Department of Geomicrobiology, ICBM,
Carl von Ossietzky Universitaet, Oldenburg,

H. R. Feldman
The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School,
Touro College, Division of Paleontology, N.Y.
American Museum of Natural History,
New York

Steve Daren
Daren Laboratories and Scientific Consultants,
Nes Ziona, Israel
July 2011

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