Archaeologists discover 2nd Temple seal in J'lem

First discovery dealing with Second Temple administration, helps put human spin on history, says IAA

December 25, 2011 13:06
2 minute read.
Archaeologists find ancient seal from 2nd Temple

ancient seal 311. (photo credit: Vladimir Neihin)


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Just as the holiday season buying frenzy wraps up, archeologists discovered one of the original examples of store credit: A 2,000-year-old clay seal from the Second Temple that was used to show that payment had been made for offerings to the Temple.

The 1cm.-by-1cm. ancient seal was found with the words “Pure for God” written in Aramaic. It is one of the first discoveries that deals with the administrative aspect of the Second Temple, and helps put a human spin on the day-to-day activities of the period, said archeologists involved with the City of David excavations, where the seal was found.

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Volunteer students sifting through the dirt excavated from the north side of the Pool of Shiloah discovered the small seal last week.

Due to the richness of the archeological history, every bucket of dirt from the area around the Shiloah spring is sifted before being thrown out. About 30 coins have been found this way since excavations began in the spring five years ago.

“This felt like a Hanukka miracle when it happened to us,” said Eli Shukron, the chief archeologist for the City of David site.

Shukron works with Ronny Reich, a professor at the University of Haifa who has worked in Jerusalem excavations for 42 years.

Reich said on Sunday that while he doesn’t usually get excited, he was thrilled at the discovery of the seal. Everyday items such as cooking utensils, oil lamps and coins have been discovered at the pool in the past.

“These discoveries give us the feeling that every day we are touching history. And we want the public to touch this history also,” Shukron said.

Similar seals were mentioned in the Mishnah (Tractate Shekalim 5:1-5): “Whoever required libations would go to Yohanan who was in charge of the stamps and give him [the appropriate amount of] money and would receive a stamp from him in return. He would then go to Ahiyah who was in charge over the libations, give him the stamp, and receive the libations from him.”

Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat spoke of the importance of the seal at the unveiling of the artifact.

“This shows the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount,” she said. “And [the discoveries] don’t stop – we are always finding more and more. There is no future without the past and without our heritage.”

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