The clay sealing from the First Temple Period..
(photo credit: ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY/ CLARA AMIT)
A rare, well-preserved piece of clay dating to the First Temple period with the Hebrew inscription “governor of the city” was recently discovered during excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem.
“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 2,700 years ago,” said Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, excavator of the site on behalf of the IAA.
The relic, dating from the 6th to 7th centuries BCE, was unearthed during a joint dig with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in the northwestern section of the Western Wall Plaza.
“This extraordinary find is a lump of clay, stamped and pre-fired,” Weksler-Bdolah said on Monday. “It measures 13 mm. x 15 mm. and is 2 mm. to 3 mm. thick. The upper part of the sealing depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script.”
Seal from First Temple Period found at kotel supports Biblical accounts (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Weksler-Bdolah said she believes that the sealing had been attached to an important shipment and served as some sort of logo, or tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city.
“It is likely that one of the buildings in our excavation was the destination of this transport sent by the city governor,” she said.
“The finding of the sealing 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 100 meters west of the Temple Mount, was inhabited by highly ranked officials during the First Temple period.”
Weksler-Bdolah added that this is the first time such a sealing has been found in an authorized excavation.
Prof. Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University released a brief analysis after studying the sealing.
“Above a double line are two standing men facing each other in a mirror-like manner,” they wrote. “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, with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes “belonging to the governor of the city.”
The researchers added 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 2 Kings, Joshua is the governor of the city in the days of Hezekiah, and in 2 Chronicles, Maaseiah is the governor of the city in the days of Josiah,” they noted.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the find serves as a strong testament to the three millennia of Jewish presence in the capital.
“This shows that already 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city,” he said. “Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals of the world, continually populated by the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years.”
Barkat continued, “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 do daily.”
The sealing was presented to Barkat during his visit to Davidson’s Center near the Western Wall last week.
After the completion of scientific research, the sealing will be displayed in a temporary exhibit in the mayor’s office.