Photo by Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority on 27 March, 2024

Student Discovers Roman-Era Lamp During School Trip

Public By Pesach Benson • 27 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 27 March, 2024 (TPS) -- A sixteen-year-old Israeli student discovered a 1,600-year-old Roman-era lamp during his high school’s annual trip in southern Israel.

While students stopped for lunch near the late Roman fort of Mezad Tzafir, Yonatan Frankel’s curiosity led him to pick up what he initially thought was a simple stone.

“One of the stones that I picked up was full of dirt. I shook it off, and suddenly I saw a design. Then, I understood that this was a man-made object and not just a stone,” Frankel said.

The object turned out to be an oil lamp dating back to the 4th-5th centuries CE, produced in Petra, Jordan. Yonatan promptly showed his find to his teacher, setting off a chain of events that led to the lamp’s transfer to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Upon examination, Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini, a senior researcher at the Antiquities Authority, noted the lamp’s significance.

“Lamps of this type were uncovered at Mezad Hazeva, and also at Mamshit, Mezad Yotvata, and Petra, but the lamp Yonatan found is identical to one discovered in the same place 90 years ago by archaeologist Nelson Glueck,” she said.

“We know that between the Nabataean-Roman town of Mamshit and the copper mines of Feinan (biblical Punon) in the Central Arava – not far from present-day Moshav ‘En Yahav, a trade route was in use in the 4th-6th centuries CE.,” Erickson-Gini explained.

“In order to secure the shipments of copper, and possibly even gold from the mines, a series of forts were built between the head of the Scorpions Ascent and Mezad Hazeva, and Mezad Tsafir was one of these. Mounted patrols guarded the important road. It is easy to imagine the lamp lighting up the darkness in the lonely, isolated fort manned by Roman soldiers,” she said.

Excavations at Mezad Tzafir have uncovered structures and artifacts from various periods of ancient history, including the Iron Age, Persian period, and Hellenistic period.

“Every object that is turned over to us is kept by the National Treasures department and each object can shed significant light –as is indeed the case here — about our past,” said Antiquities Authority director Eli Escusido.