Hikers discover menorah and cross etched into cave walls in Israel

January 4, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

(Phys.org)—A group of hikers exploring caves over Hanukkah week in the Israeli Judean Shephelah lowlands has found what appear to be ancient religious etchings on the walls of a cistern,an underground reservoir holding rainwater—initial analysis of the etchings, a menorah and a cross, by experts with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) suggests they could be thousands of years old, perhaps dating back to the Second Temple period.

Dating the etchings by conventional means such as carbon dating is impossible, of course, but the remoteness and difficult access to the site suggest that the etchings were likely not made in modern times, IAA representative Sa'ar Ganor said in an interview.

Also, interestingly, the menorah etching featured seven branches (three on either side and one in the middle for lighting) rather than the nine commonly used today. This, Ganor pointed out, suggests that the menorah etching was likely created during the time of the Second Temple, when candelabra were used to light the , from approximately 516 BCE until 70 CE, when it was destroyed. In modern times, followers of the Jewish faith light the eight small candles on either side of a menorah from the candle in the middle as part of a Hanukkah ceremony to commemorate the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The video will load shortly

In the same cave, the hikers also found an etching of a cross, a symbol that has been used by Christians to express their faith for thousands of years. How the two etchings came to exist in such close proximity is a mystery, though Ganor notes they likely were made hundreds of years apart by people hiding in the caves for very different reasons. Near both of the etchings was yet another etching—one depicting a key, which has not been studied well enough to reveal its possible identity or meaning. Ganor called the discovery an exciting find and hinted that there may be other etchings involved, as well—a team has been assembled to study the caves, though the actual site is being kept hidden to prevent amateur enthusiasts from causing damage.

Explore further: Israel to launch expedition to find more Dead Sea Scrolls

More information: www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=4242

Related Stories

Archaeologists find early depiction of a menorah

September 11, 2009

(AP) -- Israeli archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest depictions of a menorah, the seven-branched candelabra that has come to symbolize Judaism, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Friday. The menorah was engraved ...

Image: Water etchings in Western Mexico sands

May 19, 2016

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA (@astro_tim) shared this May 15, 2016 photograph taken from the International Space Station to social media, writing, "Water etchings in western @Mexico sands. @Space_Station ...

Important ancient papyrus seized from looters in Israel

October 27, 2016

(Phys.org)—Eitan Klein, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has announced that an important papyrus document dated to 2,700 years ago has been seized from a group of Palestinian looters who reportedly ...

Recommended for you

Fossils reveal unseen 'footprint' maker

January 17, 2017

Fossils found in Morocco from the long-extinct group of sea creatures called trilobites, including rarely seen soft-body parts, may be previously unseen animals that left distinctive fossil 'footprints' around the ancient ...

Study finds links between swearing and honesty

January 16, 2017

It's long been associated with anger and coarseness but profanity can have another, more positive connotation. Psychologists have learned that people who frequently curse are being more honest. Writing in the journal Social ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.