First Temple seal 224.88.
(photo credit: Shalem Center / Carla Amit)
An ancient seal bearing an archaic Hebrew inscription dating back to the 8th century BCE has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday.
The find reveals that by 2,700 years ago, clerks and merchants had already begun to add their names to the seals instead of the symbols that were used in earlier centuries.
The state-run archeological body said the seal, which was discovered near the Gihon Spring in the City of David outside the walls of the Old City, bears the Hebrew name Rephaihu (ben) Shalem, a public official who lived in the Jerusalem neighborhood during this period.
The excavation, which is being carried out by Haifa University Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, also uncovered pottery shards that date back to the Iron Age 2 (8th century BCE), which they used to date the seal, as well as fragments of three bullae, or pieces of clay that were used to seal letters or goods.
The discovery revealed an interesting development in the ancient world: whereas during the 9th century BCE letters and goods were dispatched on behalf of their senders without names, by the 8th century BCE the clerks and merchants had already begun to add their names to the seals, the archeologists said.
"In contrast with the large cluster of bullae that was found two years ago, in which all of its items contain graphic symbols [such as a boat or different animals - fish, lizards and birds] but are of an earlier date [end of the 9th-beginning of the 8th century BCE], the new items indicate that during the 8th century BCE the practice had changed and the clerks who used the seals began to add their names to them," Reich said.
The excavation, which is being conducted together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the support of the City of David Foundation, is one of several digs taking place in the City of David.