2,300-year-old clay candle uncovered at Samaritan high priesthood compound in Samaria

May 2, 2022 by TPS
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Conservation work being carried out at the Mount Gerizim site in Samaria led to the uncovering of an ancient pottery candle, estimated to date to the Hellenistic period in the second century BCE.

The clay candle. (Netanel Elimelech/Nature and Parks Authority)

Netanel Elimelech, director of the Mount Gerizim site for the Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration, said that the ancient candle was found in the compound of the high priesthood and is estimated to date to a time when Mount Gerizim “had a glorious Samaritan temple city, parallel to the Jewish Temple City in Jerusalem, about 2,300 years ago.”

The candle was located next to a stone bath, which was used for the Samaritans’ purification processes at the site next to the temple.

The remains of the ancient sacred Samaritan compound, surrounded by the remains of a large city from the Hellenistic period that numbered about ten thousand inhabitants, were uncovered at the top of Mount Gerizim.

The priesthood house is located close to the sacred compound and according to the researchers, a family of wealthy priests lived there. The complex was excavated in the 1990s under the leadership of archaeologist Dr. Yitzhak Magen, and is now undergoing conservation and accessibility operations.

Painted wall decorations found in the compound testified to the wealthy people who once lived there. A gold bell with a ring that hung from the hem of a garment worn by the priests was also found at the site.

The priesthood house complex was first opened to the public on Passover this year.


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