A rare 2,000-year-old oil lamp in the shape of half of a grotesque face that was discovered in Jerusalem last week appears to have a matching partner – which was discovered in Budapest nine years ago.
Israel’s Antiquities Authority said last week that the lamp, estimated to be in the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, was the first such find in Israel, and one of the few in the world.
According to the archaeological site of the City of David of Jerusalem, after the discovery was announced, the Hungarian archaeologist, Dr Gabor Lassanyi, reached out to say that he may have been in possession of the other half. , which was discovered during a 2012 excavation in Budapest.
“During an excavation that we carried out in Aquincum (modern Budapest), we found a remarkably rare object: at the bottom of the building, we discovered a bronze half-lamp representing the right half of a face in the shape of a Roman theater mask, ”Lassanyi wrote to Ari Levy, the head of the Jerusalem excavation.
According to Lassanyi, “Only a few known creations that resemble this one exist from this period, and they are in museums and in private collections around the world, but neither of them resemble these two halves. It is very difficult to manufacture so precisely, and therefore it is likely that both halves of the lamps were created in the same craft house and could even have served as a pair for a complete room.
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The lamp found in Jerusalem is on the left side of a face, while the Budapest lamp is on the right side.
During an initial examination of the two lamps, Lassanyi and Levy found that the two halves were exactly the same dimensions. Additionally, the lamp in Hungary has a connection slot that is recessed, while the lamp found in Israel has a protruding ridge, indicating that they could connect together.
Levy said he was “incredibly surprised and excited to receive such a response” from Lassanyi.
“From the start it was clear to us that this lamp was being made overseas in one of the European countries, but I could not imagine that I would receive such an incredible message. The presence of a similar counterpart in Hungary, an area which was under the control of the Roman Empire at the time, allows us to look at the issue in a much deeper and broader way than expected, ”said Levy.
Israel Antiquities Authority researchers said last week they believed the bronze lamp was used as a foundation deposit – a ritual burial of an offering – to bring good fortune to the residents of the building from Roman times.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the lamp was poured into a carved mold that was shaped like half a bearded man’s face with a grotesque appearance. The tip of the lamp is shaped like a crescent moon and the handle is shaped like an acanthus plant. The decoration that appears on the lamp recalls a common Roman artistic motif, similar to a theatrical mask.
Lassanyi and his team also likened their find to a theatrical mask [link in Hungarian].
Israeli archaeologists are currently examining various options to determine if the two lamps are indeed a matching pair, including the possibility of printing a three-dimensional model of Israel’s lamp and sending it to Hungary so researchers can try to connect. the two halves. the City of David said in a statement.
The find, on the pilgrimage route to the City of David, also included the wick of the lamp, which was exceptionally well preserved.
The pilgrimage route was used by Jewish pilgrims 2,000 years ago when they visited Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.