Hebrew Seal from Period of First Bais Hamikdosh Uncovered in Yerushalayim


hebrew-seal-first-bais-hamikdoshIn archaeological work in the 2,000 year-old drainage channel between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, remains were discovered of the building closest to the First Bais Hamikdosh exposed so far in archaeological excavations.

The remains of a building dating to the end of the   First Bais Hamikdosh period were discovered below the base of the ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in Israel Antiquities Authority excavations beneath Robinson’s Arch in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Kosel. This building is the closest structure to the   First Bais Hamikdosh  found to date in archaeological excavations.

In the excavations, underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, a personal Hebrew seal from the end of the   First Bais Hamikdosh period was discovered on the floor of the ancient building. The seal is made of a semi-precious stone and is engraved with the name of its owner: “Lematanyahu Ben Ho…” (“למתניהו בן הו…” meaning: “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…”). The rest of the inscription is erased.

From the very start of the excavations in this area the archaeologists decided that all of the soil removed from there would be meticulously sifted (including wet-sifting and thorough sorting of the material remnants left in the sieve). This scientific measure is being done in cooperation with thousands of pupils in the Tzurim Valley National Park. It was during the sieving process that the tiny seal was discovered.

People used personal seals in the   First Bais Hamikdosh  period for the purpose of signing letters and they were set in a signet ring. The seals served to identify their owner, just as they identify officials today.

According to Eli Shukron, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God. These names are mentioned several times in Tanach. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Yehudah in latter part of the   First Bais Hamikdosh  period – from the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh in 586 BCE. To find a seal from the   First Bais Hamikdosh  period at the foot of the Har Habayis walls is rare and very exciting. This is a tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago. We also found pottery sherds characteristic of the period on the floor in the ancient building beneath the base of the drainage channel, as well as stone collapse and evidence of a fire.”

{Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Matanya was the original name of King Tzidkiya (see Melachim II 24:17), but his father’s name is Yoshiyahu – which doesn’t start with a heh.

    Divrei Hayamim I 25:4 has Matanyahu’s father Heiman – was the vav really a yod?

    Matanya and Matanyahu are mentioned in various other places in Divrei Hayamim, Ezra, and Nehemia, and they seem to be Kohanim and Leviim, which would make sense why this was found near the Kotel.

  2. @yaak

    or it’s just someone else entirely. no reason to assume that’s it’s a named or significant person from tanakh. In fact, the odds are against it.

  3. In ksav Ivris in which this chotem is written, the letters vov and yud don’t look anything like each other

  4. icomeanon, I never assumed so. I was pointing out the possibilities and the prevalence of that name.

    Modche, true. But the mem is not so far off…