Samaritan Ancient Clay Oil Lamp.
This clay oil lamp dates to the third- fourth centuries AD (late Roman and early Byzantine periods). The uniqueness of this lamp is its connection to a central important population group in the Land of Israel during the period – the Samaritans, hence its name “the Samaritan lamp”.
The Samaritan lamps are a distinct group of vessels that have a resemblance in form, which can be attributed with certainty to this particular population group and a geographical region- mainly Samaria.
This type of oil lamp reminds us with a very important parable of our Lord Jesus.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:33
The Samaritans are an religious group that believe to be a direct continuation of the ancient people of Israel. In their view, they retain the earliest text of the Torah, and hold unique writing and faith. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, most of the Samaritans were concentrated in the area of the city of Nablus (in Hebrew: Schem, and greek: Neapolis), which next to Mount Gerizim was the most sacred place for this community – the Samaritan Temple, which was a replacement for the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. In addition, this population was concentrated along the entire main mountain boulevard and also around the city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast.
The lamps are usually divided into two groups according to the different periods: the first group of lamps (dated to the third and fourth centuries AD), to which the lamp in front of us belongs, are somewhat similar to the “Bet Natif” oil lamps and to the local Roman lamps design style of that period. However, they are characterized by unique geometric ornaments, and sometimes with symbols that distinguish the Samaritan community, such as the Samaritan script, the temple decoration on Mount Gerizim and more.
The oil lamp in front of us has an oval outline, geometric ornaments and a pinched handle. A unique fact about this lamp is that the candle eye is closed with clay, which may indicate that it is an unused lamp, as it was customary to make these lamps when they were clogged, and only the customer would break the clay shell of the lamp eye in order to use it.
This oil lamp, which dates to the Roman- Byzantine periods, is evidence of a unique population group in the Holy Land: the Samaritans. It is a lamp that has been preserved in excellent condition, displaying the unique style of the Samaritans during this period.