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Clay Seals from First Temple Period Discovered in Jerusalem

clay seal from First Temple Period
First Temple seal recently discovered in Jerusalem (photo: Ashernet)

During recent excavations in Jerusalem’s Old City, archaeologists discovered a small collection of clay seals used to secure letters or documents during the Iron Age. Researchers say this discovery offers a compelling case that Jerusalem played an important role in the Judean kingdom.

Several dozen seals and seal impressions from the First Temple period, many with biblical-type names in ancient Hebrew text, have been found in this year’s excavations of the City of David. The seals lend credence to the theory that Iron Age Jerusalem was a major administrative capital of the Judean kingdom, say archaeologists exploring the site. The Israelite form of certain names found on seal impressions or seals supports the theory that Israelites fleeing the Assyrians found shelter, and even high office, in the southern kingdom of Judah, say archaeologists involved in the dig.

In modern times, when people want to secure a letter or notarized document with a seal, they use wax. Thousands of years ago, in the Iron Age, the Middle Eastern ancients safeguarded correspondence using a sealing of moist clay that would be imprinted with the seal. 

If the sealing remained intact, the addressee could know the content hadn’t been read or tampered with, explains Joe Uziel, the director of the excavation, with Ortal Chalaf, for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The seals will be on display this week at the annual City of David archaeology conference. 

Tags: Facts and Findings

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Landscape photo of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock in the foreground.

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