To Elihana Bat Gael Seal | City Of David

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A collection of seals (bullae) from the late First Temple period, discovered in...
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To Elihana Bat Gael Seal

A Rare Seal Bearing a Woman’s Name from the First Temple Period was Discovered in Excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is Conducting in the City of David, in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park.
 
Another seal from the same time, which bears the name of a man, was found nearby. According to excavation directors from the IAA, the seals were probably part of the contents of a large administrative building  that is currently being exposed in the Giv‘ati parking lot, south of the Temple Mount. Excavation director Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, “What we have here is an extremely rare find”.
 
Two seals bearing Hebrew names from the First Temple period were recently discovered in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David. The seals were found inside a large building dating to the time of the First Temple, which was exposed in excavations in the Giv‘ati parking lot in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park. 
 
After nine years of excavating by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and with a large financial investment by the City of David Society , archaeologists at the site succeeded in reaching the strata of ancient Jerusalem dating to the First Temple period where a surprise awaited them: inside the ashlar-built structure, the top of which was exposed 10 meters below the surface, they found a unique seal that once belonged to a woman  more than 2,500 years ago. 
 
According to archaeologists Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Finding a seal from the time of the First Temple period in excavations in Jerusalem is not a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that bears the name of a woman is an even rarer phenomenon. Personal seals such as these were used for signing documents and were often inlaid as part of a ring. In antiquity they designated the identity, genealogy and status of the owner of the seal”. 
 
On the seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, appears the mirror-image of “to Elihana bat Gael” written in ancient Hebrew letters. The owner of the ring is mentioned here together with her father. Seals that belonged to women constitute just a minute proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date. This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances. Indeed, the name Elihana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status. “Most of the women’s seal we have bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband”, says Dr. Haggai Misgav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who read the seals.
 
“This datum is also likely to indicate the relatively elevated status of these women, which depended on their original family, and not on their husband’s family. It is possible that some of the women maintained their economic independence after their marriage; but we do not have sufficient information about the law in Judah during this period”. 
 
The name Eliha is known from a contemporary Ammonite seal and is the feminine form of the known Biblical name Eli. The script appearing on the seal is remarkably similar to the script on Ammonite seals, and this might indicate the foreign origin of the artisan that carved the seal and possibly the foreign origin of Elihana, who was apparently from east of the Jordan River”.   
 
The second seal, engraved in mirror writing, bears the inscription “to Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu”. Both of these names are known from documents dating to the First Temple period. The name Sa‘aryahu appears on a sherd from Arad, and apparently means “the Lord, which was revealed in a storm” (see Job 38). 
 
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