Rare mark from biblical king’s seal found in Jerusalem

Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology say they have discovered a seal of biblical King Hezekiah, who helped build Jerusalem into an ancient metropolis.

JERUSALEM (DECEMBER 2, 2015) (REUTERS) – A mark from the seal of biblical King Hezekiah, who helped build Jerusalem into an ancient metropolis, has been discovered by Israeli archaeologists, the Hebrew University announced in a news conference on Wednesday (December 2).

The circular inscription, on a piece of clay less than a centimetre (0.4 inches) long, may very well have been made by the king himself, said Eilat Mazar of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University who directed the excavation where it was uncovered.

Hezekiah ruled around 700 BC and was described in the bible as a daring monarch – There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him (II Kings 18:5) – who was dedicated to eliminating idolatry in his kingdom, Mazar said.

“We found this seal so now we know that some documents that was signed by king Hezekiah himself was stored along with the other seals that where stamping all kinds of products, but he himself for some reason had a document signed by him in this building,” Mazar said.

The clay imprint, known as a bulla, was found at a dig at the foot of the southern part of the wall that surrounds Jerusalem’s Old City, an area rich in relics from the period of the first of two ancient Jewish temples.

It had been buried in a refuse dump dated to the time of Hezekiah and was likely tossed from an adjacent royal building, Mazar said. It contains ancient Hebrew script and the symbol of a two-winged sun.

The bulla was initially catalogued and put in a closet, along with 33 others, after an unremarkable first inspection. Only five years later, when a team member scrutinised it under a magnifying glass and discerned dots in between some of the letters, did the meaning come clear.

The dots help separate the words: “Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz king of Judah.”

Mazar said the back side of the clay imprint of the seal had markings of thin cords that were used to tie a papyrus document.

It’s always a question, what are the real facts behind the biblical stories, Mazar said. “Here we have the chance to get as close as we can to the person himself to the king himself. How close can you get to somebody who is dead? That’s it. I mean I don’t now maybe if we find something personal of his like the seal itself but now for the time being we have this impression and we are happy enough to have that because it is so rare.”

This particular seal the king had marked on a document written on papyrus, rolled and tied with thin cords, which left their mark on the back side of the clay.