Archaeology news: Biblical-era seal found in Jerusalem proves owner had ‘elevated status’

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Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have dated the seal to about 2,6000-years-ago. The seal bears the name “Elihana bat Gael” and is very unique as not many personal seals belonging to women have been found. According to the excavation directors, the seal indicates the owner was in a position to conduct business and own property.

Personal seals like this would have been used to sign documents and were often worn in rings.

The inscriptions they bore revealed the owner’s identity, family and societal status.

In this particular case, Elihana bat Gael’s name is inscribed together with the name of her father.

The seal also bears Elihana’s father’s name rather than that of her husband – an indicator of her status.

Archaeologists unearthed the seal a few years ago at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

The Israeli national park covers parts of the ancient city and includes some of the most important archaeological sites in the whole country.

The IAA highlighted the discovery on Monday as the world celebrated International Women’s Day 2021.

In a Facebook post, the IAA said: “Who do you think is a strong woman? @tag her.”

The seal hails from the First Temple period – an estimated 957 to 697 BC – named after the Biblical First Temple built by King Solomon on top of Jerusalem’s holy Temple Mount.

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Dr Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem said: “Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date.

“Most of the women’s seals 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.”

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Ancient seals or bullae are frequently found across Israel and sometimes bear direct links to the nation’s ancient kings.

In 2015, for instance, archaeologists unearthed at Jerusalem’s Ophel the royal seal of King Hezekiah.

According to the Bible, Hezekiah was the 13th king of Judah, who is believed to have reigned between 715 and 686 BC.

The clay seal was inscribed with the words: “Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz king of Judah.”

Earlier this year the IAA also highlighted the discovery of a so-called LMLK seal, also linked to King Hezekiah.

LMLK seals were stamped with the Hebrew letters LMLK or “lamedh mem ladh kaph”.

The Hebrew script translates to “of the king” or “belonging to the king”.

The seals were stamped on clay jars containing royal taxes and other possessions.

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