A 2,000-year-old seal bearing a name similar to that of Israel’s prime minister was discovered during excavations near the Western Wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
The find was made near the remains of a building dating to the end of the First Temple period, discovered below the base of an ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in excavations in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
“The name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God,” said Eli Shukron, excavation director for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Benjamin Netanyahu, chairman of the Likud political party, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Israel in April 2009.
“These names are mentioned several times in the Bible. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Judah in latter part of the First Temple period – from the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE,” he explained.
The seal was discovered on the floor of the ancient building, where pottery sherds characteristic of the period were also discovered, as well as evidence of a fire. The seal is made of a semi-precious stone and is engraved in Hebrew with the name of its owner: “Lematanyahu Ben Ho…” meaning: “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…”).
The rest of the inscription is erased, the archaeological society said.
People used personal seals in the First Temple period for the purpose of signing letters and they were set in a signet ring. The seals served to identify their owner, just as they identify officials today.
To find a seal from the First Temple period at the foot of the Temple Mount walls is rare and very exciting,” Shukron said.
“This is a tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago.”