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Strong Women of Ancient Jerusalem

The seal bearing the inscription "to Elihana Bat Gael." Photo: IAA/ASHERNET

Usually, women had less financial status during the First Temple period, but not Elihana. Her personal seal - used for signing documents - was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) during an excavation of the City of David. This exciting find shows that some women did hold onto a high social status during this time period - and the discovery is just in time for International Women's Day!

A rare 2,500-year-old seal bearing the name "Elihana bat Gael" was discovered in excavations at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. Another seal belonging to a man named "Sa'aryahu ben Shabenyahu" was found nearby.

According to the excavation directors, "the owner of the seal was exceptional compared to other women of the First Temple period: she had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property."

Who were Elihana bat Gael and Sa'aryahu ben Shabenyahu? Two seals bearing Hebrew names were uncovered in a large building dating to the First Temple period in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Giv'ati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. "Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon," said the researchers...

According to Dr. Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, "Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date. This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances such as this. Indeed, the name Elihana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status."

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