A rare, 3,000-year-old seal dating back to the time of King David was recently discovered in Jerusalem. Even more amazing is that the seal was uncovered by a 10-year-old Russian volunteer, Matvei Tcepliaev, taking part in the Temple Mount Sifting Project, under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and with the support of the City of David Foundation.
The seal was only recently deciphered by archaeologists. According to Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and Director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, “the seal is the first of its kind to be found in Jerusalem”.
Barkay said that the seal has special significance due to its age and the context of its location. “The dating of the seal corresponds to the historical period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David,” he explained. “This was also the time of the construction of the Temple and the royal official compound by his son, King Solomon… What makes this discovery particularly significant is that it originated from upon the Temple Mount itself.”
The historical credibility of Biblical texts regarding Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE have been hotly debated by archaeologists since the 1990s. However, recent finds from the Temple Mount Sifting Project as well as from other local excavations from around the Temple Mount area, indicate that the descriptions found within the Biblical text relating to Jerusalem are more authentic than most critics have claimed.
The seal depicts the images of two animals, one on top of the other. It is unclear yet what these animals represent. Additionally, the seal is perforated, enabling one to hang it from a string.
While unable to discern the exact meaning of the image depicted upon the seal, archaeologists believe that the seal’s importance comes from its administrative function, and its being discovered on the Temple Mount.
“The discovery of the seal testifies to the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mount during those times,” said Barkay. “All the parallel seals with similar stylistic designs have been found at sites in Israel.”
The Temple Mount Sifting Project has thus far uncovered hundreds of pottery shards as well as rare bronze arrowheads dating to the 10th century BCE. This seal is the first of its kind to be unearthed. These hundreds of artifacts have been uncovered from the soil which has been removed from the Temple Mount illegally. In 1999, the Islamic Waqf, which oversees the the Temple Mount, began removing tons of earth with no archaeological supervision.
The Temple Mount has never been excavated. The ancient artifacts retrieved in the Temple Mount Sifting Project provide valuable and previously inaccessible information, which would otherwise have been lost due to the illegal intervention by the Waqf. The many categories of finds are among the largest and most varied ever found in Jerusalem.
Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the project, commented on the importance of the archaeological efforts in spite of the challenges faced by experts due to the removal of the soil from its natural resting place. “Even though they have been extracted from their archaeological context, most of these artifacts can be identified and dated by comparing them with those found at other nearby sites.”