Jerusalem archaeologists unearthed a seal dating to the First Temple period last week bearing the words “governor of Jerusalem,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.
The 2700-year-old seal, a 13 x 15 millimeter stamped piece of clay impressed with a seal, was discovered during excavations about 100 meters west of the Temple Mount. The upper part of the seal depicts two men, standing facing one another in a mirror-like manner.
The figures’ heads are depicted as large dots, lacking details, with the outward-facing hands dropping down and the hands facing inward are raised. Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment. The lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew saying “belonging to the governor of the city.”
Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, an IAA archaeologist who participated in the dig, said the sealing had likely been attached to an important transport and served as a logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which had been sent on behalf of the governor of the city.
“The new find proves that around the late first temple period there was a governor of Jerusalem. In the Bible, there are two governors of Jerusalem mentioned by name – Joshua, the governor of Jerusalem in the days of king Hezekiah, and Maaseiah that was the governor of Jerusalem in the days of Josiah.”
Weksler-Bdolah added that the seal is the latest of seven seals to be discovered here to carry the names of Netanyahu Ben Yaush, Hagav, Yedaayahu, Usha and others. All together it tells us that we are likely looking at the neighborhood where the high administration lived during the late first temple period. she said.
Hebrew University Professor Tallay Ornan and Tel Aviv University Professor Benjamin Sass added that the title ‘governor of the city’ is known from the Bible and extra-biblical documents, referring to an official appointed by the king.
The bullae are small pieces of clay which in ancient times served to seal letters. A letter which arrived with its seal broken was a sign that the letter had been opened before reaching its destination. Although letters themselves did not survive the terrible fire which consumed Jerusalem at its destruction, the seals, being made of clay, were well-preserved thanks to the fire, and attest to the existence of both the letters and their senders.
The archaeologists presented the seal to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who said he was “overwhelmed to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem.”
“This find shows that already 2700 years ago, Jerusalem… 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 3000 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.”