Rare Ancient First Temple Seal Discovered Near Western Wall Plaza

January 2, 2018

by: Edgar Asher

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Site of the excavation

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 | The importance of archaeological finds in the Land of Israel has not been lost on the Palestinians. More important archaeological discoveries reinforce the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and in particular to Jerusalem. For their part the Palestinians have made it their policy to destroy as much as they can that might add to the archaeological history of Israel. Copious volumes earth and building material of the former infrastructure of Jerusalem, particularly on and around the Temple Mount, were excavated and dumped by the Palestinians to prevent finding archaeological evidence of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Much of this dumped infrastructure, mainly from the Temple Mount area, has now however been painstakingly sifted over the past years and important archaeological items dating back several thousand years reveal the connection of Jews to the City of David.

General view of the Western Wall Plaza with archaeological dig on the left side

Recent archaeological excavations around the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza conducted by archaeologists from the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation have yet again added to the Jewish connection to Jerusalem by the discovery of a unique stamped piece of clay, inscribed in ancient Hebrew script from the First Temple period of some 2,700 years ago. The piece of clay was inscribed, ‘[Belonging] To the Governor of the City’, and was recently unearthed at IAA and Western Wall Heritage excavations near to the Western Wall Plaza.

According to the IAA archaeologists, Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, “The Bible mentions two governors of Jerusalem, and this finding thus reveals that such a position was actually held by someone in the city some 2700 years ago.” The governor of the city of Jerusalem was the most prominent local position to be held in Jerusalem of 2700 years ago. This astonishing find, which is pre-fired, measures 13 x 15 mm [0.51 x 0.59 in] and is between two to three millimeters [0.08 to 0.12 in] thick. The upper part of the sealing depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script.

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, believes that the seal had been attached to an important transport and served as some sort of logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city. Dr. Weksler-Bdolah further suggests that it is likely that one of the buildings in the excavation was the destination of this transport, sent by the city governor. The finding of the seal with this high-rank title, in addition to the large assemblage of actual seals found in the building in the past, supports the assumption that this area, located on the western slopes of the western hill of ancient Jerusalem, some 100m [328 ft] west of the Temple Mount, was inhabited by highly ranked officials during the First Temple period. According to Dr. Weksler-Bdolah, “this is the first time that such a seal has been found in an authorized excavation. It supports the biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city in Jerusalem some 2,700 years ago.”

Seal from the First Temple period, recently discovered near the Western Wall Plaza

Professor Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University, and Professor Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, studied the seal and describe it thus: “above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised.  Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment. In the register beneath the double line is an inscription in ancient Hebrew: לשרער, with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes לשר העיר, that is – ‘belonging to the governor of the city’. Prof. Ornan and Prof. Sass add, that “the title ‘governor of the city’ is known from the Bible and from extra-biblical documents, referring to an official appointed by the king. Governors of Jerusalem are mentioned twice in the Bible: in the ‘Second Book of Kings’, Joshua is the governor of the city in the days of Hezekiah, and in the ‘Second Book of Chronicles’, Maaseiah is the governor of the city in the days of Josiah.

Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, commented, “It is very overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple period Jerusalem. This shows that already some 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city. Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years. Today we have the privilege to encounter another one of the long chain of persons and leaders that built and developed the city. We are grateful to be living in a city with such a magnificent past, and are obligated to ensure its strength for generations to come, as we daily do.”

Posted on January 2, 2018

Source: (Ashernet originally published this article on 01 January, 2018. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Ashernet/IAA