December 26, 2011
2,000-Year-Old Clay Seal Found Near Temple In Jerusalem
Archaeologists said on Sunday they found a rare clay seal under Jerusalem's Old City that is linked to religious practices 2,000 years ago.
The seal was found near the Jewish Temple at the Western Wall. It bears two Aramaic words meaning "pure for God."
Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said the seal dates between the 1st century B.C. to 70 A.D.
Reich, co-director of the excavation, said this is the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history, and it appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practices in the Temple.
The Temple remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity, so very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered there.
Archaeologists say the seal was likely used by Temple officials for approving an object for ritual, such as oil or an animal intended for sacrifice.
"It seems that the inscribed object was used to mark products or objects that were brought to the Temple, and it was imperative they be ritually pure," the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement announcing the find.
Materials used by Temple priest had to meet certain criteria that was laid out by the Jewish legal text Mishna.
Reich said the find is "the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount – the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the Temple itself."
The Israel Antiquities Authority said this was the first time such a seal had been found, providing direct archaeological evidence of ritual activity in the temple described in the Mishna.
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