Incense-shovel (mahta or batillum) - ROM2010_11687_66


Incense-shovel (mahta or batillum)

Medium:Bronze (cast)
Geography: Greater Syria
Date: c. 50-150 AD
Period: Roman Imperial period
19.4 x 9.1 cm
Object number: 910.239.10
On view
Gallery Location:Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of Rome and the Near East
DescriptionIncense shovels such as this are known throughout the Roman Empire but are particularly common in the Middle East where they are perhaps associated with the Jewish "mahta," although other faiths in the region may have used them in a similar way. This shovel may form part of a hoard of objects. They were acquired from J. Vester & Co of Jerusalem in 1910, although they were shipped to the ROM from Damascus. The group was allegedly found at a site called "Sioufi" and although it is debateable where that is, it is presumably in Greater Syria (including modern Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Antioch). The group as a whole has strong parallels with another hoard found in the Cave of the Letters near the Dead Sea, where the assemblage is dated to the time of the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135 AD). Like the Cave of the Letters finds, these objects are Roman in design, although possibly made locally. If this is from a hoard, then it is very likely to have been deposited during a time of unrest, such as the Bar Kochba revolt, or the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. During these times uprisings by the local population were met with brutal and bloody suppression by the Roman authorities, and under such circumstances it would not be unusual for the person who deposited the hoard to be incapable of returning to retrieve their hidden property.
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