Photo Credit: Sarah Tal, Israel Antiquities Authority.
Nathaniel Melchior and Alon Segev with the candle they found.

Nathaniel Melchior and Alon Segev, two reserve soldiers in the 404th Battalion of the 282nd Fire Brigade, discovered an ancient oil candle from the Byzantine period that was preserved intact. The soldiers showed exemplary citizenship and turned the candle over to the Israel Antiquities Authority to be preserved properly.

“During one of our wanderings in the field, we came across pottery that was lying upside down, and its round shape caught my eye,” recalls Nathaniel. “It was covered in mud, I cleaned it and after realizing what it was, I called the Antiquities Authority.”

The candle found by the soldiers. / Sarah Tal, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Meanwhile, Alon uploaded to his Facebook group a post with a picture of the candle, and it aroused a lot of interest. “The post gained momentum, it received dozens of comments and hundreds of likes,” says Alon. “The surfers offered different suggestions about the object’s identity, and advised us to alert the Antiquities Authority.”

According to Sarah Tal, the IAA’s Western Negev archaeologist, “This is a candle from the Byzantine period, about 1500 years ago, known as a ‘sandal candle.’ Used for light, it was common in ancient times. It was produced in a mold and is typical of the lowlands and the south of Israel.”

Sarah visited the soldiers, collected the precious item, and awarded them an IAA certificate of gratitude.

Antiquities Authority archaeologist Sarah Tal with the soldiers, the candle and the certificate they received. / Israel Antiquities Authority

“The war creates extraordinary situations on the archaeological front as well,” says IAA Director Eli Escusido. “The land of Israel, particularly the Gaza envelope area, is saturated with history and ancient findings, and the IAA cooperates with the IDF to preserve them even during war. I congratulate the soldiers on their vigilance and the demonstration of good citizenship, and remind everyone that when discovering an ancient find it is important to leave it in its place and call the IAA inspectors, so our researchers would be able to extract as much information as possible from the find regarding the site where it was discovered.”

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