During the Hanukkah festival in Israel last week, hikers found an ancient carving of a seven-branched menorah and a cross dating back to the late Roman and Byzantine periods.
A group of Israel Caving Club members were exploring hidden caves in the Judean lowlands over the weekend when they discerned the limestone carvings: a three-footed menorah with seven branches similar to the one that stood in the Jerusalem temple, a cross, and a depiction of an ancient key. Other as yet unidentified carvings were also found, the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] said…
“It’s rare to find a wall engraving of a menorah,” which is a “distinct Jewish symbol,” Ganor [an archaeologist with the IAA responsible for the region around Ashkelon] said. The IAA said that only two menorah engravings exist in the region where it was found: one in an oil press at Beit Loya and the other in a tomb near Beit Guvrin — both east of the modern city of Kiryat Gat.
“It’s impossible to date an etching specifically,” Ganor told The Times of Israel. “It’s not pottery; you can’t use carbon-14 dating.” But a previously studied archaeological site located in close proximity to the cistern dates to the late Roman and Byzantine period. During those periods there were Jews and Christians living in the settlement, perhaps simultaneously during the later years.