Excavation directors say find is important because it proves Jewish community existed in region that was Christian at the time.
Archeologists digging near Acre have uncovered a menorah-emblazoned ceramic seal they believe was used by a 6th-century village baker to certify his bread as kosher.
The diminutive “bread stamp” is the first of its kind to be found in a controlled archeological excavation in which its origin and date of manufacture can be precisely determined.
The Israel Antiquities Authority is currently excavating Uza, a site east of Acre where a Byzantine village by the same name once stood. The dig is being conducted as part of ongoing preparations to lay new rail tracks from Acre to Carmiel.
Gilad Jaffe and Danny Syon, the archeologists leading the dig, said in a statement, “A number of seals bearing menorahs are known from other collections. The menorah from the Temple, as a Jewish symbol par excellence, indicates the seal belonged to Jews, in contrast to Christian bread seals featuring crosses, which were very common in the Byzantine era.”
Previous digs at Uza have uncovered other artifacts testifying to Jewish life in the village: Shabbat candles, a ceramic burial tomb and water pitchers inscribed with menorah motifs.
“The seal is important in that it testifies further to the existence of a Jewish community in Uza in the Byzantine-Christian era,” the archeologists said. “Given Uza’s proximity to Acre, we may presume the community supplied kosher bakery goods to the Jews of Acre in the Byzantine period.”
The seal shows a seven-branched menorah of the kind used in the Temple in Jerusalem. The handle also features Greek lettering, which according to Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, may spell out the word Launtius. The name was common among Jews of the time, and appears on a similar seal believed to be of the same period.
David Amit of the Antiquities Authority said bread stamps carried a dual message: “The menorah is general Jewish symbol used by Jewish bakers, while the first name added additional guarantees as to the products’ kashrut.”