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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The kosher symbol from the 6th century

From Ha'aretz:

A 1,500-year-old seal with the image of the seven-branched Temple Menorah has been discovered near the city of Acre.

The ceramic stamp, which dates from the Byzantine period in the 6th century CE, was found during ongoing Israel Antiquities Authority excavations at Horbat Uza, east of Acre, which are being undertaken before the construction of the Acre-Carmiel railroad track.

It is thought the stamp was used to mark baked goods, and is known as a “bread stamp.”

“A number of stamps bearing an image of a menorah are known from different collections. The Temple Menorah, being a Jewish symbol par excellence, indicates the stamps belonged to Jews, unlike Christian bread stamps with the cross pattern which were much more common in the Byzantine period,” said Gilad Jaffe and Dr. Danny Syon, the directors of the excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority,

“The stamp is important because it proves that a Jewish community existed in the settlement of Uza in the Christian-Byzantine period. The presence of a Jewish settlement so close to Acre - a region that was definitely Christian at this time - constitutes an innovation in archaeological research,” Syon said.

“Due to the geographical proximity of Horbat Uza to Acre, we can speculate that the settlement supplied kosher baked goods to the Jews of Acre in the Byzantine period,” Jaffe and Syon added.

Horbat Uza is a small rural settlement where other archaeological finds, a Shabbat lamp and jars with menorah patterns painted on them, have alluded to it having been a Jewish settlement.

The stamp bears the image of a seven-branched menorah, and the handle of the stamp is engraved with Greek letters. According to Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this is probably the name Launtius, which was common among Jews of the period and has appeared on other Jewish bread stamps.

“This is probably the name of the baker from Horbat Uza,” Jaffe and Syon said.
I know, I don't usually highlight archaeological findings that are so new - only 1,500 years old.

But it still predates Islam!

(I wonder if this hechsher was considered reliable...."You trust the seven-branch menorah? It isn't mehadrin!")