A 2,000-year-old oil lamp in the shape of a hideous face cut in half was found in the City of David. And according to archaeologists, the bronze lamp was placed in the foundation of a Roman-era building on Pilgrimage Road for good luck. That specific road would have been traveled on by Jewish pilgrims who were visiting the Temple Mount. The very rare lamp would have been placed there not long after the Second Temple was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), they think that the lamp was put in the foundation as part of a ritual burial offering for good fortune to those inhabiting the building. In a statement from the IAA, Dr. Yuval Baruch and Ari Levy went into further details, “The offering of this lamp may attest to the importance of the building, which may have been linked to the protection of the Siloam Pool, the city’s primary water source,” adding, “The uniqueness of the current object is that it is only half a face.”
Baruch went on to describe the rarity of the lamp, “Collections around the world contain thousands of these bronze lamps, many of which were made in intricate shapes, indicating the artistic freedom that Roman metal artists possessed.” “Meanwhile, this half of a lamp, and in fact half a face, which was discovered in the City of David, is a very rare object, with only a few discovered in the whole world, and is the first of its kind to be discovered in Jerusalem.”
As for where it was found, they explained, “Foundation deposits (offerings) were prevalent in the ancient world, and were intended for luck, and to ensure the continued existence of the building and its occupants, and they were usually buried under the floors of buildings or foundations.”
The lamp’s unusual shape was created by pouring the liquid into a sculpting mold in the shape of half a human face – specifically a grotesque-looking man with a beard. The lamp’s tip was in the shape of a crescent moon with an acanthus plant-like shape for the handle.
Incredibly, the lamp’s wick was also found and was surprisingly well preserved. Dr. Naama Sukenik, who is the curator of organic materials at the IAA, examined it and found that it was made of flax. Further research needs to be conducted in order to know what type of oil may have been used in the lamp.
Pictures of the lamp can be seen here.