Biblical Archaeology Review 41:5, September/October 2015

Strata: What Is It?

A. Nabatean oil burner

B. Persian bead

C. Byzantine wheel

D. Hurrian button

E. Hellenistic discus

Answer: (A) Nabatean oil burner

Dedicated to the god Obodas, this bronze oil burner was found in Khirbet al-Falāḥāt—located in Wadi Musa, Jordan—in June 2011. Measuring approximately 3.6 inches across, the oil burner dates to the Nabatean period and includes a 110-character inscription on its edge (see below), which reads, “This is the oil burner (or oil lamp?) and the summer vessel (?) which Zwyls the priest and his son ‘Abd‘obodat dedicated to Obodas the god in the temple of cult reliefs (?) in Gaia for the life of Rabbel the king, king of the Nabateans who gives life and saves his people for the life …”1

The abrupt ending hints that the inscription originally would have continued on another—now missing—part of the object. As indicated by the inscription, the oil burner in its entirety was offered to the god Obodas at Gaia. Such dedications were common in temples.

The oil burner is unique, and the inscription rare. There are no known Nabatean parallels for the oil burner. Further, it was unusual for inscriptions to be incised on metal objects. It was much more common for Nabatean texts to be written on stone.

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