9.09.2013

A Byzantine Menorah Necklace From Jerusalem

I had been warned that there would be a big archaeological announcement coming out of Jerusalem about an important Byzantine find, and today it started to hit the press. Still no IAA press release though.

The source of most of the information comes from this video released by the film-makers archaeologists:

Rich History Unearthed in Jerusalem: Gold Treasure With Jewish Menorah Found Near Temple Mount | The Key to David's City

Leaving aside the melodrama and nonsense about The Temple, Eilat Mazar has found an interesting and rare Jewish pendant decorated with a seven branch Menorah. The Menorah itself is not rare in Israeli archaeological finds, nor is the Shofar, but Mazar believes that the depiction of the Torah scroll is, and that this suggests that the medallion was made outside Italy. She further theorises that this means it was brought back by a returning Diaspora Jew, who had returned to Jerusalem after the Persian conquest, to [blah, blah, blah] because it was found only 50 m from the base of the Temple Mound. In any case the item itself is interesting and unusual.




The finds were made near the surface, but from her description seem to be possibly two separate caches, one of which included the necklace and which was slightly better concealed.

Of particular interest is the fact that there were two sets of gold coins; one set was smaller, entirely fourth century, and made up of coins that looked rather worn down. The second, larger set was made up of sixth century coins, ending with the Emperor Maurice, creating a terminus ante quem (AD 602).


There were quite a number of Jews who support and fought with  Khosrau II's Sassanian army against to Byzantines in what is now known as the Byzantine-Sassanid War, and more specifically the Jewish Revolt Against Heraclius. The B-S War  started in AD 602, but the Jewish Revolt only in AD 614, the same year that Jerusalem itself fell to the Persians. Jerusalem was briefly under Jewish rule as part of the Sassanian Empire, but was reconquered by Heraclius in AD  629. In AD 637 the city fell to the Arabs.

Whilst the excavators would like to link the two caches to the Persian conquest of Jerusalem, and this brief last twilight of Jewish self-rule before the creation of the State of Israel ... the dates of the coins would suggest that they were buried possibly decades before the city was even besieged by the Persians.

The location of the finds:



A comparable medallion with a Greek inscription indicating that it was dedicated in a synagogue is now in the Jewish Museum in London:


This silver "bracelet" is a fascinating find, as the conservators identified filaments of fabric attached to it, and believe that it might once have held a Torah scroll:


The "bracelet" after conservation:


1 comment:

  1. very important finding in the archiological comunity.
    thanks for the posting about the Jewish Menorah

    ReplyDelete

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