Monday, March 07, 2016

Rare Seal of Woman Discovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced a significant discovery from the excavations in the Central Valley below the Dung Gate. The excavations in the Givati parking lot are being directed by Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen. From the press release:

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.

On the rare woman’s seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, appears the mirror-writing of “to Elihana bat Gael”, inscribed in ancient Hebrew letters. The female owner of the ring is mentioned here together with the name of her father.

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”. Dr. Misgav adds, “Most of the women’s seal that are known to us bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband. Here, as in other cases, this might indicate the relatively elevated status of Elihana, which depended on her original family, and not on her husband’s family. It seems that Elihana maintained her right to property and financial independence even after her marriage and therefore her father’s name was retained; however, we do not have sufficient information about the law in Judah during this period”. The name Eliha is known from a contemporary Ammonite seal and is the feminine form of the name Eli, known from the Bible. The script appearing on the seal is remarkably similar to the script on Ammonite seals, and this might indicate the foreign origin of the artisan who carved the seal and possibly the foreign origin of Elihana, who apparently came from east of the Jordan River”.

The press release includes more information and a photo. The only mention of a date is in the headline referring to a “2,500 year old seal.” I suspect the seal dates closer to 700-600 BC.

At the moment, there are no articles about this discovery except a restricted link on the City of David website. There may be more by the time you read this with this search.

For photos of the area and excavations, see our previous post here.

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