Two 2500-year-old seals bearing Hebrew names have been discovered in Ihr Dovid in Yerushalayim.
One of the seals belonged to a man named “Sa‘aryahu ben [son of] Shabenyahu” and the second bears the name “Elichana bas [daughter of] Gael,” a female name, rare for seals from that era.
“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 Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, the excavation directors, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“The owner of the seal enjoyed an exceptionally high social status compared to other women of the First Temple period,” the researchers said. “She had a legal status that allowed her to engage in business and possess property.”
The seals were discovered at the Givati Excavation in the Yerushalayim Walls National Park near the Kosel.
After nine years of excavations at the former parking lot, archaeologists at the site reached an ancient stratum dating to the First Bais Hamikdosh period where they found the two seals inside a structure made out of ashlars. The researchers believe the building was used as an administrative center.
According to the excavation directors, “Personal seals such as those of Elichana and Sa‘aryahu were used to sign documents and were frequently inlaid into a ring worn by the owner. The seals stated the identity, genealogy and status of their owner.”
“Seals belonging to women represent just a very small proportion of all seals discovered to date,” said Dr. Haggai Misgav from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “This is due to the generally inferior economic status of women, with the exception of extraordinary cases such as this one.”
A mirror-writing of the words “to Elichana bat Gael” was inscribed in ancient Hebrew letters on the woman’s seal, which was made of semi-precious stone. The female owner of the ring is mentioned together with the name of her father.
“The name Elichana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman,” added Dr. Misgav. “But the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status.”
“The name Elicha is known from a contemporary Ammonite seal and is the feminine form of the Biblical name Eli,” he said. “The script on the seal is remarkably similar to the script on Ammonite seals, which might indicate the foreign origin of the artisan who carved the seal and possibly of Elihana, who apparently came from east of the Jordan River”.
The second seal also inscribed in mirror-writing, “to Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu.” The name Sa‘aryahu appears on a shard discovered in the city of Arad.
Tazpit News Agency