Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Seal of King Hezekiah Discovered near Temple Mount

A personal seal impression belonging to King Hezekiah has been discovered in excavations south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The tiny inscription reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz king of Judah,” and is the first of its kind to be discovered in an excavation.

From a press release from the Hebrew University:

Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla (piece of inscribed clay) measuring 13 X 12 mm. Around the impression is the depression left by the frame of the ring in which the seal was set.

The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script:

"לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה"

"Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah"

and a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.

hu151202_Mazar_Tadmor_big

The bulla originally sealed a document written on a papyrus rolled and tied with thin cords, which left their mark on the reverse of the bulla. This bulla came to light, together with many pottery sherds and other finds such as figurines and seals, in Area A of the excavations (2009 season), supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus.

The bulla was discovered in a refuse dump dated to the time of King Hezekiah or shortly after, and originated in the Royal Building that stood next to it and appears to have been used to store foodstuffs. This building, one of a series of structures that also included a gatehouse and towers, was constructed in the second half of the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) as part of the fortifications of the Ophel — the new governmental quarter that was built in the area that connects the City of David with the Temple Mount.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Shiva

The bulla was found together with 33 additional bullae imprinted from other seals, some bearing Hebrew names, their reverse showing marks of coarse fabric and thick cords that probably sealed sacks containing foodstuffs.

The full press release, along with a 10-minute video, is posted here.

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16 Comments:

  • Very few people realize how little of Jerusalem has been studied in detail. I am sure there is a lot more of these kind of discoveries to come. Thank you for the report.

    By Blogger bruce, at Wed Dec 02, 01:36:00 PM  

  • Incredibly shocking that the excavation team's epigrapher didn't immediately recognize it (trying to read "MLKYED" as a single-word personal name), since the first specimen had been published on the cover of BAR in 2002. Hard to imagine an epigrapher who hasn't studied Robert Deutsch's publications, since most Judahite seal impressions come from the antiquities market. On the other hand, wow, what a blessing the TM sifting project has been, in helping to find teeny-weeny treasures like these!

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Wed Dec 02, 09:20:00 PM  

  • Todd, can you comment on the two-winged sun and ankh? I also read that similar seals with Hezekiah's name have a dung-beetle in place of the winged sun. What kind of symbolism is going on here? Is this syncretism in any form due to the Egyptian origin and use of these symbols in their religion? Other thoughts on the symbols? Thanks!

    By Blogger Joshua Grauman, at Thu Dec 03, 06:14:00 PM  

  • Joshua - I haven't studied this in any depth, and so I'm hesitant to suggest interpretations. Isaiah speaks about Judah's temptation to rely on Egypt, and I suppose that this is related.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Fri Dec 04, 10:49:00 AM  

  • Thanks. Pretty interesting. If you come across anything, let me know!

    By Blogger Joshua Grauman, at Fri Dec 04, 04:05:00 PM  

  • The inscription is missing the phrase "son of" between Ahaz and Hezekiah... any chance this is something from the period of overlap or co-regency (when Hezekiah became king but before the death of Ahaz)?

    By Blogger Jeremy Jessup, at Fri Dec 04, 05:03:00 PM  

  • "Son of" is more likely left out because of space limitations, given the iconography. Other seals without iconography are able to fit more letters. These seals and bullae are not very large--just button-sized. The photographs make them appear much larger than real life.

    By Blogger A.D. Riddle, at Fri Dec 04, 05:39:00 PM  

  • Joshua - George Athas has some helpful analysis here.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Fri Dec 04, 07:29:00 PM  

  • Athas says this the third bulla of this kind, but it is actually the fourth. After Deutsch published his 2002 article in BAR that Athas mentions, Deutsch published an additional bulla of this type from the Shlomo Moussaieff collection. It is bulla #1 (p. 46) in
    Deutsch, Robert.
    2003 “A Hoard of Fifty Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Hezekiah.” Pp. 45-98 in Shlomo: Studies in Epigraphy, Iconography, History and Archaeology in Honor of Shlomo Moussaieff. Ed. R. Deutsch. Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Archaeological Center Publication.

    The essay can be accessed at Robert Deutsch's Academia.edu page here.

    By Blogger A.D. Riddle, at Fri Dec 04, 08:29:00 PM  

  • fantastic find!!!! again another witness!!!

    By Blogger diane, at Fri Dec 04, 10:55:00 PM  

  • Egyptian iconography (the ankh and the winged disk in addition to the beetles) was widespread in the 8th and 7th cent Judah another example of this is the use of hieratic numbers at such sites as arad and kuntillet ajrud.

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Fri Dec 04, 11:22:00 PM  

  • Hi Everybody, Dr. Robert Deutsch in his very fine segment on youTube shows seven bullae of this particular seal of King Hezekiah which are known, albeit one is fragmentary. This one new bulla from Dr. Eilat Mazar's excavations found in Dr. Gabriel Barkay's and his assistant's Temple Mount Wet Sifting Devices brings the total known to eight impressions. Dear Dr. Bolen I have always wondered if Dr. Eilat Mazar is technically excavating on the Ophel or is she actually excavating on the Millo. This is just my opinion. Here is the link to Dr. Robert Deutsch's fine youTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VoJ4NuIUpg Thank you all for everything. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Michael Welch, Deltona, Florida

    By Blogger Michael Welch, at Sat Dec 05, 05:57:00 AM  

  • Hi Michael - thanks for your comment. As for the Ophel and Millo, we're really only guessing where/what these were based on etymology what seems to fit what's on the ground. We need to find a copy of an ancient atlas of Jerusalem that explains these and other terms!

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Sat Dec 05, 03:15:00 PM  

  • Thanks to everyone for all the interesting comments. We should not be surprised by the ubiquitous discovery of Hezekiah's bullae throughout Israel in light of 2Chronicles 30:1-10 (i.e., he wrote [papyrus?] letters & sent them all over the place). It's actually odd that any would be found in Jerusalem since that's where we'd expect them to originate. Maybe this particular hoard that Mazar's team discovered are the remnant of a philatelic collection!

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Sun Dec 06, 02:30:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Todd, for the article. Very interesting find.

    By Blogger Josh Watson, at Sun Dec 06, 03:30:00 PM  

  • Michael,
    Thank you for the link to the Robert Deutsch video. That is extremely helpful for some research I am doing.
    A.D.

    By Blogger A.D. Riddle, at Wed Dec 09, 08:15:00 PM  

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