A seven-year-old Israeli girl and her mother went for a walk earlier this week in the Beit Shean Valley, enjoying an afternoon in nature when the child stumbled on a strange object. She picked it up and handed it to her mother, who just happened to be a student of archeology at Haifa University. The mother didn’t need more than one look to identify the object as an ancient oil lamp dating back 2,200 years, meaning it would’ve been in use in the days of Judah Maccabee.
The two were thrilled to make such a discovery, especially so close to Hanukkah, but the mother’s suspicion soon arose: If such a priceless object was laying out in the open, she thought, that probably meant that antique robbers were out and about. She called Nir Distelfeld of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who arrived on the scene to investigate. When he did, he chuckled: The culprits who dug up the lamp, he said, weren’t robbers but porcupines, who like to burrow for the winter. They’re often drawn to excavation sites, he added, because they’ve been dug over by people and the earth is easier to turn. The young girl and her mother, Distelfeld said, will receive a certificate of commendation for their finding, while the porcupines, he added, will not face any criminal charges. It’s a Hanukkah miracle all around.