Magdala Stone

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The Magdala Stone is a large, first century artifact that was recently discovered in the ancient city of Magdala, a city described in the New Testament as the hometown of Mary Magdalene and a place where Jesus once visited after the feeding of the 5,000.[1] This ancient finding has been described by some as one of the most important single findings in archaeology in the last 50 years.[2]

The Magdala Stone is an ancient artifact found in Magdala, an ancient town residing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee


On July 27, 2009, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists, Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najjar, began conducting a five-month mandatory excavation at Magdala.[3] On September 1, 2009, a first century synagogue was discovered at Magdala,[4] and nearly in the middle of this extremely old synagogue, the Magdala Stone was found less than a foot beneath the soil.[5] The site of Magdala was destroyed c. 70 AD by Roman forces, making this first-century artifact one of the most important of its kind.


The Magdala Stone is a quartzite stone block, measuring 1.8 by 2 foot, with a height of about 1 foot. It is carved with symbols of the Temple of Jerusalem. It also contains carvings of a menorah, making it the oldest known artifact to ever display an image of the menorah. It was found in virtually the center of an ancient first-century synagogue and was likely a piece of Jewish ceremonial furniture in which Torah scrolls would be placed on in order to be read (a bimah). According to Rina Talgam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this stone may indicate that there was an early Jewish movement located in this ancient synagogue at Magdala, that inspired the belief that this synagogue was some sort of mini-Temple.[6]

On the front of the Magdala Stone, is an image depicting a seven-branched menorah, and in fact the oldest depiction of the menorah known in archaeology to date.[7] The menorah is situated on top of a decorated square, one that may be symbolic of an altar of sacrifice. On the sides of the menorah, are depicted two jars, which may be symbolic of the water and oil that is used in the Temple of Jerusalem. The two sides of the Magdala Stone depict carvings of a building containing pillared archways, and with more archways inside, giving the Magdala Stone a three-dimensional look, as if one were standing in the Temple of Jerusalem themselves. The "back of the stone depicts a pillared structure with two wheels above a geometric shape, illustrating fire. Presumably, the front and sides of the stone carvings represent the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and the back side depicting wheels and fire represents the Holy of Holies."[8] One of the most interesting parts is the top side of the stone, where carvings reveal a rosette with six petals, surrounded by six smaller petals. There are decorative features all over the Magdala Stone.

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