2,500-Year-Old Seal Belonging to Prominent Woman Unearthed in Jerusalem

Who were Elihana bat Gael and Sa’aryahu ben Shabenyahu?

Two seals bearing those names were uncovered in the remains of a building from the First Temple period (c. 1000-586 BCE) in excavations carried out in a former parking lot outside Jerusalem’s City of David.

“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 the archaeologists, announcing the find just before International Women’s Day on March 8. The seals were discovered inside a structure built of fine masonry, believed to have been an administrative center.

“Personal seals, such as those of Elihana and Sa‘aryahu, were used for signing documents, and were frequently inlaid as part of a ring that was worn by the owner,” the excavation directors said in a statement. “In antiquity they designated the identity, genealogy and status of the owner of the seal.”

Backwards writing of the words “to Elihana bat Gael” inscribed in ancient Hebrew appear on the woman’s seal, which was made of semi-precious stone.

“Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date. This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances such as this,” said Prof. Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Indeed, the name Elihana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status.”

The second seal bears the inscription “to Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu,” a male name that also appears on a shard found previously in Arad.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been excavating the parking lot for nine years in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation.

(via Israel21c )

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