"The menorah was probably etched in the cistern after the water installation was hewn in the bedrock, maybe by inhabitants of the Jewish settlement that was situated there during the Second Temple period and the time of Bar Kokhba," Ganor said in the statement. "The cross was etched later on, during the Byzantine period," he added.
Modern menorahs typically have nine arms, eight representing the eight nights of Hanukkah, and one extra to hold the candle that lights all the others. The seven-armed design is associated with menorahs used in the First and Second Temples, and predates the Hanukkah holiday, which emerged after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.
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The seven-armed menorah was an important symbol for Jews in the ancient world; it may even have been used to identify kosher bread about 1,500 years ago, IAA archaeologists announced in 2012. Excavations in Akko, a city in Israel, uncovered a ceramic stamp carved in the shape of a seven-branched menorah, which was likely used by a baker during the Byzantine period to mark baked goods for Jewish customers.
Menorah symbols have also been found in ancient Hebrew scrolls, stamped on a jar handle and in graffiti carved into stone in an ancient Turkish city.
But wall engravings of menorahs are less common, making this new find important for unraveling the puzzle of life in the Judean Shephelah caves thousands of years ago, Ganor explained.
"It is rare to find a wall engraving of a menorah," Ganor said. "This exciting discovery, which was symbolically revealed during the Hanukkah holiday, substantiates the scientific research regarding the Jewish nature of the settlement during the Second Temple period."
Original article on Live Science.
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