Archeologists find 1,500-year-old kosher bread stamp

Archeologists found this 1,500-year-old kosher bread stamp near Acco. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

ACCO (JWN)—Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists have uncovered a ceramic stamp embossed with the image of the seven-branched menorah used in the Temple. The 1,500-year-old stamp was unearthed in a dig near the northern city of Acco (Acre).

Archeologists say it dates from the Byzantine period in the sixth century CE and was probably used as a “bread stamp” to certify baked goods as kosher. It was unearthed during a salvage excavation at Horbat Uza in advance of construction of the Acco-Karmiel railroad.

Under the Antiquities Authority Law, an archeological dig must be undertaken in advance of any new construction, to ensure that no valuable antiquities are lost.

“A number of stamps bearing an image of a menorah are known from different collections. The Temple Menorah, being a Jewish symbol par excellence, indicates the stamps belonged to Jews, unlike Christian bread stamps with the cross pattern, which were much more common in the Byzantine period,” said the Israel Antiquities Authority in a statement.

“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 Acco—a region that was definitely Christian at this time—constitutes an innovation in archeological research,” said excavation co-director Dr. Danny Syon.

“Due to the geographical proximity of Horbat Uza to Acco, we can speculate that the settlement supplied kosher baked goods to the Jews of Acco in the Byzantine period,” he added.

In addition to the image of the menorah, the handle of the stamp is engraved with Greek letters spelling the name Launtius, which is probably the name of the kosher baker from Horbat Uza.