More Exciting Archaeological Discoveries in Israel

There have been some exciting discoveries in Israel recently – a very rare seal was found in the City of David, belonging to a Hebrew woman called Elihena Bat Gael, from the First Temple Period – more than 2500 years ago. Seals from this time are very rare, and it is even more remarkable to have found one belonging to a woman from this time.
The other unusual discovery was a collection of textiles and seeds in the Arava valley from the time of David and Solomon. We have not found anything like it dating back this far before, because fabric is not usually preserved for such a long time. “This provides a unique window into an entire aspect of life from which we’ve never had physical evidence before,” said Dr. Ben-Yosef who was leading the dig.

Rare seal found in Jerusalem

It’s always awe-inspiring when we get a glimpse into the reality of life in Biblical times. And thanks to the technology and archaeological expertise that has developed over the years, we can now have a better understanding of that history, and build up a clearer picture of the Israel that our Biblical heroes knew and lived in.
Archaeologists have discovered a monumental ancient public structure in the area of the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem: “There is a sense that this was an administrative building – indeed, the entire belt surrounding the Temple was apparently not meant for simple buildings,” explained Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was in this structure that they found the capital of a column typical of the period, pottery shards, weights, and bulla seals (inscribed pieces of clay), among other things. But it is two seals that were inscribed not upon clay but semi-precious stones that have caused all the excitement. The names Elihana bat Gael and Sa’aryahu ben Shabenyahu are engraved on these stones, and are more than 2500 years old. According to cultural historian Haggai Misgav from Hebrew University, it is very rare to find a woman’s name on a seal. [1]

Edomite fabrics from the time of David and Solomon

Meanwhile, south of Jerusalem, beyond the Dead Sea, there has been a team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University digging in the ancient copper mines of Timna, thought to be the location of Solomon’s mines. The extremely dry conditions which were responsible for preserving the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran also seemed to have been kind to this cache of fabrics. “We found fragments of textiles that originated from bags, clothing, tents, ropes and cords,” reported Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, who headed up the team. It is through items like these that we can get a clearer indication of what life was like for the ancients in Israel.
The inhabitants of this area in the Arava were Edomites, a semi-nomadic people group often at war with Israel. The miners of ancient Timna may have been slaves or prisoners, but the subsequent process of smelting the copper was by no means simple. “If a person had the exceptional knowledge to ‘create copper,’ he was considered well-versed in an extremely sophisticated technology. He would have been considered magical or supernatural, and his social status would have reflected this,”explained Dr. Ben-Yosef.
“This discovery strengthens our understanding of the Edomites as an important geopolitical presence. The fabrics are of a very high quality, with complex designs and beautiful dyes.”[2]

Ancient Seeds of the Seven Species Found

Not only do we know about the Edomites from the Bible, but we also know about the copper that was abundant in Israel from Deuteronomy 8, where the rich resources of Israel are listed by God:

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)

Amazingly, at this same site, thousands of ancient seeds of the Biblical “Seven Species” have been found, dating back to the same era. The Seven Species are listed in the passage above as: wheat and barley, vines and fig trees and pomegranates, olive trees and honey (honey being the date honey that comes from date palm trees).
Dr Ben-Yosef says, “This is the first time seeds from this period have been found uncharred and in such large quantities,” adding, “with the advancement of modern science, we now enjoy research options that were unthinkable a few decades ago.
We can reconstruct wine typical of King David’s era, for example, and understand the cultivation and domestication processes that have been preserved in the DNA of the seed.”
[1] HaAretz, 7th March 2016, Nir Hasson, Rare First Temple-Era Seal Belonging to Woman Found in City of David Dig
[2] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24th February 2016, Textiles dating to David and Solomon found at Timna Valley dig

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