2,500-year-old seal shows Jerusalem status after Babylonian destruction of 586 BCE

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How did Jerusalem deal with the tremendous destruction wrought upon her by the Babylonian army in the 6th century BCE? New findings uncovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University may provide an answer to this question.

2,500-year-old seal shows Jerusalem status after Babylonian destruction of 586 BCE
Stamp Seal featuring a man sitting on a big chair (maybe a king), in front of the man
are pillars, discovered in the City of David Givati Parking Lot excavations
[Credit: Shai Halevy, Israel Antiquities Authority]

A double stamp impression on a bulla and a clay seal were found next to the rubble of a large structure that was destroyed during the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem. These findings were dated – with high probability – to the Persian period and were discovered during the course of archaeological excavations undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in the Givati Parking Lot Excavation of The City of David Jerusalem, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.




“Despite the numerous excavations conducted in Jerusalem to date, so far the findings revealed from the Persian period are extremely meager and therefore we lack information regarding the character and appearance of the city during this period. The researchers emphasized that discovering these artifacts in an archaeological context which can be dated with highly probable accuracy is very rare.” explained Prof. Yuval Gadot, of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Yiftah Shalev, of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

2,500-year-old seal shows Jerusalem status after Babylonian destruction of 586 BCE
Seal made out of a piece of clay from the Persian Period discovered in the City of David Givati
Parking Lot excavations [Credit: Shai Halevy, Israel Antiquities Authority]

Seal impression – bullae – were small pieces of clay used in ancient times to sign documents or containers. This discovery shows evidence of the administrative authorities, and even of the people representing them. In other words – ancient historical bureaucracy.




The double seal impression was discovered on a large piece of clay, about 4.5 cm, indicates that it was used to seal a large container – perhaps a jar – and not a document. The imprint bears the image of a person sitting on a large chair with a column in front of him. The design of the image is indicative of Babylonian-style composition. The character is probably a king and the column is the symbols that represent the gods Nabu or Marduk.

2,500-year-old seal shows Jerusalem status after Babylonian destruction of 586 BCE
This fragment of a Persian-period (4th – 5th century BCE) Bes-Vessel was discovered in a large refuse pit
in the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot dig, in Jerusalem [Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David]

According to Dr. Ido Koch of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University, only around ten artifacts of this style have been found in Israel, in places such as Ein Gedi and Jerusalem, which appear to have been in use during the Persian period.




The engravings on the clay seal represent two characters, and it may be a pseudo-epigraphic seal (bearing drawings designed to resemble letters). The size of the seal, around 8 cm in diameter, indicates that it was used to seal large objects.

The finding of the seal and seal impression indicates that despite the city’s dire situation after the destruction, efforts were made to restore the administrative authorities to its daily routine, and its residents continued to partially use the structures that were destroyed. Revealing these findings shed light on the city’s structure during the period of the Return to Zion, knowledge we had so far from Biblical literature (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah).

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority [July 01, 2020]

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