16-yr old discovers 1600-yr old lamp on school trip

16-yr old discovers 1600-yr old lamp on school trip

Sixteen year-old Yonatan Frankel, a pupil from the Tamar High School in Hod Hasharon, was with his class on an annual field trip along the Scorpions Ascent in southern Israel. When his class stopped for lunch next to the Late Roman fort of Mezad Tzafir, Yonatan began to pick up rocks from the sand to look at them. “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.”

 The Scorpions Ascent and Mezad Tsafir. Credit: Dr. Davida Degen-Eisenberg, Israel Antiquities Authority

.Hikers along on the Scorpions Ascent. Credit: Neer Lect-Ben Ami, Israel Antiquities Authority

Yonatan brought the lamp to his teacher, who showed it to their guide who was responsible and made sure that it was transferred to the Sub-district Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Southern Negev District, Alex Freiberg. Yonatan received a certificate of merit for his discovery and for good citizenship.

The oil lamp discovered at Mezad Tsafir was produced in Petra in Jordan in the 4th-5th centuries CE. When IAA senior researcher Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini saw the lamp, which was only partially intact, she was quite excited. “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 at in the same place 90 years ago (!) by archaeologist Nelson Glueck,” she said. 

 An identical lamp was discovered at Mezad Tsafir 90 years ago by archaeologist Nelson Glueck. Credit: Nelson Glueck, 1934-1935. Explorations in Eastern Palestine, II. (AASOR 15). P. 116, fi

“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. 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.

“I wish to thank Yonatan for his good citizenship,” said Eli Escusido, the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “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.” 

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