Archaeologists recently uncovered 120 jars bearing royal seal impressions from the kingdom of Judah that date to 2,700 years ago, during the time of the First Temple Period. The find, just 2 miles from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, represents one of the largest collections of ancient royal seal impressions discovered in Israel.
The researchers found the jars in an ancient storage facility apparently used to hold food King Hezekiah and his oldest son Manasseh collected as taxes, The Times of Israel reported. The Iron Age structure served as a governmental storage site for agricultural surplus, a distribution center for lean times, and a collection place for products like wine and olive oil.
Many of the seal impressions bear an image of the sun flanked by two or four wings. The words “Belonging to the King” are inscribed on top, and the name of one of four cities in Judah is engraved on the bottom. Three of the cities—Hebron, Ziph, and Socho—appear in the Bible, but the fourth, Mmst, remains unknown.
Other seals bear the names of senior officials or wealthy men. The researchers believe those individuals likely possessed large agricultural tracts and owned private seals.
The excavation revealed the Jews continued to use the site after the Assyrian conquest but abandoned it in 586 B.C. when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and sent them into exile. Governmental activity at the site resumed when a remnant of the Jews returned in 538 B.C.
For reasons that remain a mystery, after the Jews returned to Jerusalem, someone heaped a 65-foot-high hill of flint stones covering nearly 2 acres on top of the site. Another storage facility may lie in unexcavated parts of the hill.
“These artificial stone hills have been identified at several sites in Jerusalem and are a phenomenon of the end of the First Temple period and have aroused the curiosity and fascination of Jerusalem researchers since the beginning of archaeological research in the area,” the researchers said. —J.B.