An ancient clay candle dating to the 2nd century BCE (the Hellenistic period) was unearthed during conservation work being carried out on Mount Gerizim (hard G) in Samaria.
According to Nathaniel Elimelech, the director of the Mount Gerizim site of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration in Samaria, “the ancient candle was discovered in the compound of the High Priest’s House, where we are conducting conservation work. It is estimated to date to a period when a grand Samaritan temple stood on Mount Gerizim, parallel to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem about 2,300 years ago.”
According to II Kings 17, The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and he settled them in the towns of Samaria in place of the Israelites; they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its towns. When they first settled there, they did not worship God; so, God sent lions against them which killed some of them. They said to the king of Assyria: “The nations which you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know the rules of the God of the land; therefore, He has let lions loose against them which are killing them—for they do not know the rules of the God of the land.” The king of Assyria gave an order: “Send there one of the priests whom you have deported; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the practices of the God of the land.”
According to Elimelech, “the candle is located next to a stone bath, which was used for the Samaritans’ purification processes at the site next to the temple.”
The remains of the ancient compound of the Samaritans’ temple were discovered on the Mount of the Blessings, at the top of Mount Gerizim, surrounded by the remains of a large city from the Hellenistic period which numbered an estimated ten thousand inhabitants.
From the top of the mountain, one views the mountains of Samaria and sees the city of Shechem as if it is resting in the palm of one’s hand.
The priests’ house is located close to the temple compound and the researchers believe a family of wealthy priests lived there. The complex was excavated in the 1990s under the leadership of archaeologist Dr. Yitzhak Magen, and now conservation and accessibility operations are being carried out there by the Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration.
In the past, painted wall decorations were also found in the compound, according to which it was determined that wealthy people lived there. A gold bell with a ring that hung from the hem of a garment worn by the priests was found there as well.
The Priests’ House complex was first opened to the public this past Passover, after the completion of works that were carried out by the Archeology Department at the Civil Administration, the District Conservation Team of the Nature and Parks Authority, and Project 500 employees.
Project 500 is an innovation of the Nature and Parks Authority, with support from the Finance Ministry, employing 500 previously unemployed individuals around the country in cleaning, nature conservation, and heritage missions.
The site offers visitors an exciting experience of walking in courtyards, alleys, and ancient chambers from 2,300 years ago.