King Hezekiah’s Seal Impression Found in the Ophel Excavations, Jerusalem

Dr. Eilat Mazar, a leading Jerusalem archaeologist whose landmark discoveries include an ancient golden treasure at the foot of the Temple Mount, has unearthed a new discovery from her latest archaeological excavation in Jerusalem: the bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah.

The clay seal stamped with Hezekiah’s name was found in the royal quarter of the Ophel and marks Mazar’s newest biblically related find. It is the first-ever seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king ever exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation.

The inscription reads: „Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah.“ // „לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה“.

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.

Mazar’s archaeological team discovered the private seal of the king during a recent phase of excavations by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Experts identified several other subtle details about the artifact, surmising that it was originally used to seal a document written on a papyrus scroll which was then rolled and tied with thin cords, leaving their mark on the reverse of the bulla.

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

„Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbol and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation,“ said Dr. Eilat Mazar.

The seal impression was found during the wet-sifting of earth layers from the excavation in the Emek-Zurim wet-sifting facility, directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Zachi Dvira, under the auspices of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation. The bulla was discovered by Efrat Greenwald, a member of the Ophel expedition, who supervised the wet-sifting of the excavation material. Reut Ben-Aryeh, who prepared the Hebrew bullae from the Ophel excavations for publication, was the first to identify it as a seal impression of King Hezekiah. Students and alumni of Herbert W. Armstrong College from Edmond, Oklahoma participated in the excavation. The discovery of King Hezekiah’s Royal Seal impression in the Ophel excavations vividly brings to life the Biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem’s Royal Quarter.

The Bible records that Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, ruled the kingdom of Judah from its capital, Jerusalem, 14 generations after King David during a major military conflict with Assyria. 2 Kings 18:5 notes his historical significance by recording: „[A]fter him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.“

Mazar’s other discoveries in Jerusalem include King David’s palace, Nehemiah’s wall, bullae belonging to princes who persecuted the Prophet Jeremiah, a Davidic-era secret tunnel, and a Solomonic-era wall. She plans to publish Volume 1 of her final report on her recent Ophel excavations later this month.

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© Arutz Sheva – Israel National News, and DEBKAfile, 02.12.2015

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