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Israeli archaeologists uncover rare, ancient bronze lamp shaped like a face

Archaeologist Ari Levy holds a rare bronze oil lamp on Wednesday that was discovered during excavations in the City of David's Pilgrimage Road in East Jerusalem. The lamp was intentionally buried for good luck and is a common Roman artistic motif, similar to the theatrical mask. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Archaeologist Ari Levy holds a rare bronze oil lamp on Wednesday that was discovered during excavations in the City of David's Pilgrimage Road in East Jerusalem. The lamp was intentionally buried for good luck and is a common Roman artistic motif, similar to the theatrical mask. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

May 5 (UPI) -- Archaeologists in Israel said Wednesday they recently found a rare, ancient bronze oil lamp in the City of David National Park that dates back to the first and second centuries.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said the discovery of the lamp, which it says was intended to provide good fortune, was found during an excavation along the City of David's Pilgrimage Road. The bronze oil lamp is shaped like a face cut in half.

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The excavation was conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the Jerusalem Walls City of David National Park.

Archaeologists Ari Levy and Yuval Baruch said the lamp, discovered in the foundations of a building on the road, was intentionally placed there to bring good fortune to people who lived there.

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"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," Levy and Baruch said in a statement.

At its creation, the lamp was poured into a sculpted mold that was shaped like half a face belonging to a bearded man with a "grotesque" appearance, the researchers said. The tip is shaped like a crescent moon and the handle like the Acanthus plant.

The lamp's decoration is reminiscent of a common Roman artistic motif, similar to a theatrical mask.

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"Foundation deposits were prevalent in the ancient world, and were intended for luck, and to ensure the continued existence of the building and its occupants," Baruch and Levy added. "And they were usually buried under the floors of buildings or foundations."

"The building where the lamp was discovered was built directly on top of the Pilgrimage Road at the end of the Second Temple period. The construction of such a massive structure in the period after the destruction of Jewish Jerusalem demonstrates the importance of the area even after the destruction of the Second Temple."

Baruch said only a few such lamps have been found before, and the one they found is the first of its kind in Jerusalem.

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