Rare ancient treasures bearing Biblical names discovered in Jerusalem’s City of David

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a rare clay seal mark and a 2,600-year-old stone stamp bearing Biblical names amid the ruins of a building destroyed by the ancient Babylonians.

The amazing finds, which date to the First Temple period, were made in Jerusalem’s famous City of David. The artifacts were discovered in the remains of a structure razed in the 6th century B.C., likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., according to experts.

In a statement, Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the dig, said charred pottery shards were found in the building, indicating that the seal mark and stamp survived a major fire. Both artifacts feature ancient Hebrew script.

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In ancient times, a seal stamp, or bulla, was used to authenticate documents or items.

The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal stamp found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)

The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal stamp found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)

The tiny 1 cm seal stamp has been dated to sometime from the middle of the seventh century to the start of the sixth century B.C. Deciphered by Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem, the stamp features the words: “(Belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” In the second book of Kings 23:11 “Nathan-Melech” is described as an official in the court of King Josiah. The seal is described as the first archaeological evidence of the Biblical name.

“Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” said Mendel-Geberovich, in the statement.

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A 1 cm stamp-seal made of bluish agate stone was also found in the ruins. The stamp is engraved with the name: “(Belonging) to Ikar son of Matanyahu.” The name “Matanyahu” appears in the Bible and on other stamps and seal marks, but the name “Ikar” has not been seen before.

The Ikar Ben Matanyahu seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David) 

The Ikar Ben Matanyahu seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David) 

Mendel-Geberovich believes that “Ikar,” which can be translated as “farmer,” likely refers to a private individual, as opposed to a description of the person’s occupation.

Stamp seals, which were often used to sign documents, where often set in their owners’ signet rings. It is unclear who “Ikar” was.

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“These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city,” said Prof. Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the statement.

The excavation took place at the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem's City of David. (Photo credit:  Yonit Schiller, City of David)

The excavation took place at the Givati Parking Lot in Jerusalem's City of David. (Photo credit:  Yonit Schiller, City of David)

“This is an extremely exciting find for billions of people worldwide, said Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation which operates the City of David National Park, in a statement provided to Fox News, citing the importance of the seal. "The ongoing archeological excavations at the City of David continue to prove that ancient Jerusalem is no longer just a matter of faith, but also a matter of fact. It is truly fascinating to watch how archeologists have uncovered more than twelve layers of Jerusalem history in what used to be a parking lot until just few years ago.”

Israel continues to reveal fresh details of its incredible history. Archaeologists in the City of David, for example, recently discovered an unusual clay jar fragment depicting a ‘grotesque’ ancient deity for scaring away evil spirits. Experts also recently uncovered the estate of a wealthy ancient Samaritan at Zur Natan in central Israel.

In another project, researchers have been shedding new light on the history of a Biblical site linked to the Ark of the Covenant.

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Engravings of ships were also recently found on an ancient water cistern discovered in a city in the Negev desert.

Givati Parking Lot Excavations in the City of David, where the discoveries were made.

Givati Parking Lot Excavations in the City of David, where the discoveries were made. (Photo credit: Kobi Harati)

Elsewhere, archaeologists confirmed the first full spelling of “Jerusalem” on an ancient stone inscription excavated in the area of Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, known as Binyanei Ha'Uma.

In separate excavations, experts discovered a site that may offer fresh insight into the ancient biblical kingdom of David and Solomon, and a trove of bronze coins, the last remnants of an ancient Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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In February 2018, archaeologists announced the discovery of a clay seal mark that may bear the signature of the biblical Prophet Isaiah.

The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal found in the City of David.

The Nathan-Melech/Eved Hamelech seal found in the City of David. (Photo Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)

Other recent finds in recent years include the skeleton of a pregnant woman, dating back 3,200 years, in Israel’s Timna Valley, at a place once called King Solomon’s Mines.

At the site of an ancient city on the West Bank, archaeologists are also hunting for evidence of the tabernacle that once housed the Ark of the Covenant.

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Some experts also believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias, formerly the village of Bethsaida, which was the home of Jesus' apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers