Byzantine-Era Bread Stamp Discovery in Akko Sheds Light on Jewish Life

Ryan Jones

Byzantine-Era Bread Stamp Discovery in Akko Sheds Light on Jewish Life

Photo: Ancient bread stamp with menorah carving (Courtesy: Travelujah and Israel Antiquities Authority)

A small ceramic stamp used to mark bakery produce may not seem like a significant archaeological find, but Israeli archaeologists are rather excited by such a discovery made near the northern coastal town of Akko.

In previous eras, Akko was known as Acre, and was a major Christian stronghold in the Holy Land. That is why interest has been piqued by the small ceramic stamp bearing an image of the seven-branched Temple Menorah, which was found in a controlled archeological dig at Horbat Uza just outside Akko. The stamp dates back to the 6th century A.D., a time when Akko was a Christian-dominated city under the Byzantine Empire. Gilad Jaffe and Dr. Danny Syon, who are directing the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, were pleased to be able to do definitely date the artifact:

"This is the first time such a stamp is discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, thus making it possible to determine its provenance and date of manufacture."

The existence of the stamp is evidence that despite Christian control of that part of the Holy Land at that time, a Jewish presence remained. And, that presence must have been somewhat significant if it required its own dedicated bakeries to produce certified kosher goods.

"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 Akko -- a region that was definitely Christian at this time -- constitutes an innovation in archaeological research," stated Jaffe and Syon in an official press release. "Due to the geographical proximity of Horbat Uza to Akko, we can speculate that the settlement supplied kosher baked goods to the Jews of Akko in the Byzantine period."

The stamp itself is of similar design to other Jewish bread stamps found around the region, though which have not been as definitely dated as the Horbat Uza stamp. It is engraved on the flat end with a seven-branched menorah, "a Jewish symbol par excellence," noted Jaffe and Syon, which identified anything marked with the stamp as being undeniably of Jewish manufacture. Along the neck of the stamp's handle are carved Greek letters that experts believe spell out the name Launtius, a common Jewish name in Byzantine times.

This important discovery was only made because of plans to build a new railroad connecting Akko to the central Galilee town of Karmiel. So inundated is the Holy Land with historical remains that any simple construction project must be preceded by a painstaking archeological review and even a comprehensive dig to ensure that the past is not lost in making way for the future.

Ryan Jones writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

Publication date: January 11, 2012

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