Friday, April 22, 2016

The Ophel golden menorah medallion

REMINDER FOR PASSOVER: The Menorah Treasure Discovered in the Heart of Jerusalem (Ariella Mendlowitz, Breaking Israel News).
General Sir Charles Warren initiated the first excavations in the Ophel area in 1867, but it wasn’t until 1968 under Benjamin Mazar that remains from the First Temple period (from 957 to 586 BCE), such as water cisterns, tombs and parts of Robinson’s arch, were unearthed. Carrying on her father’s legacy, Dr. Eilat Mazar first tackled the site in 1986 and returned three years ago to continue.

Dr. Mazar’s persistence was well rewarded. Just five days into the summer dig [in 2013], the team of Hebrew University archaeologists was astonished to uncover a trove of archaeological goodies: 36 gold coins, as well as several pieces gold and silver jewelry. But the prize find was the now-famous Menorah Treasure, a 10-centimeter golden medallion with three sacred Jewish motifs etched into it: a menorah, a shofar (ram’s horn), and a Torah scroll.

The gold cache was discovered in a Byzantine structure which archaeologists say was constructed in the sixth century CE. Dr. Mazar believes the trove was carefully hidden by a group of Jews during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. The collection itself is only the third of its kind ever discovered in Jerusalem.

According to the Hebrew University report, the medallion was “hanging from a gold chain” and is “most likely an ornament for a Torah scroll.” If indeed it is meant to adorn a Torah scroll, “it is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found in archaeological excavations to date.


The original menorah itself was first constructed by the Israelites, at God’s instruction, for use in the Tabernacle services as they sojourned in the desert.

I noted the discovery of the medallion and gold hoard here back when it was announced in 2013.