Two IDF reserve soldiers uncover Byzantine-era oil candle

Two on-duty IDF reservists discovered 1,500-year-old-but-well-preserved piece of pottery used for making light when filled with a wick in from the Byzantine period in an IDF staging area that had been used for light in ancient times. They handed it over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) that awarded them with a certificate for “good citizenship.”

The reservists from the 404th battalion of the 282nd artillery brigade –Natanel Melchior and Alon Segev – didn’t expect such a discovery, but when they were wandering in the field, they came upon a piece of pottery stuck upside down whose round shape attracted them. “It was covered in mud,” Netanel recalled. “I cleaned it, and after I realized what that it might be something special, I called the Antiquities Authority.”

At the same time, Alon uploaded to the Facebook group a post with a picture of the piece, and it aroused much interest. “The post gained momentum, it received dozens of comments and hundreds of likes. People suggested various possibilities about what the artifact was used for, and many advised us to call the Antiquities Authority.”

These two IDF reservists made a remarkable discovery. (credit: ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY.)

What is a “sandal candle”?

According to Sara Tal, the IAA’s archaeologist in the Western Negev region, “It is a pottery candle from the Byzantine period known as the ‘sandal candle.’ It was commonly used for light and made in a pattern typical of the lowland region and southern Israel near the Gaza Strip. Tal went to the soldiers, collected the artifact and presented them with the certificate.

Soldiers are presented with a certificate to mark their discovery. (credit: ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY.)
“The war brings us together with extraordinary situations also on the archaeological front,” says Eli Escozido, director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

“I remind everyone that in the event of finding an ancient artifact, it is important to leave it in place and call the IAA staffers to come and examine it so that our researchers will be able to extract as much information as possible from the find about the site where it is was discovered,” he concluded. 

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