Second Temple Seal Used for Ritual Found at Temple Mount

A 2000 year-old seal with the inscription “Pure for YH (abbr. of YHWH)” was found in excavations of the foundations of the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem just recently. The directors of the excavation believe that it is an example of the type of seal thought to have been used in the Second Temple (Herod’s) for ritual purposes — likely to declare that an object (e.g. oil for ritual use) was fit for use in the temple.

Photographic credit - Vladimir Naykhin

 

From the press release:

Exposed- A Find Indicative of the Activity in the Temple
A first of its kind find, indicative of activity in the Temple, was recently discovered:
a tiny item that was probably used as a “voucher” certifying the ritual purity of an object or food in the Temple Mount compound and in the Second Temple

The discovery was presented at a press conference at which the Minister of Culture Limor Livnat and Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar participated

Layers of soil covering the foundations of the Western Wall, c. 15 meters north of the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, were excavated beneath Robinson’s Arch in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden. On top of these layers, dating to the first century CE (the late Second Temple period), was paved the Herodian street which was the main road of Jerusalem at that time. From the very start of the excavations in this area the archaeologists decided that all of the soil removed from there would be meticulously sifted (including wet-sifting and thorough sorting of the material remnants left in the sieve). This scientific measure is being done in cooperation with thousands of pupils in the Tzurim Valley National Park, and is underwritten by the Ir David Association. It was during the sieving process that a tiny object of fired clay, the size of a button (c. 2 centimeter in diameter) was discovered. The item is stamped with an Aramaic inscription consisting of two lines – in the upper line “דכא” and below it “ליה”. “דכא” or “דכי” in Aramaic means pure. Following the preposition “ל” in the word “ליה” is the shortened form (two of the four letters) for the name of the G-d of Israel.

According to the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, archaeologists Eli Shukron of the IAA and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “The meaning of the inscription is “Pure for G-d”. 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. This stamped impression is probably the kind referred to in the Mishnah (Tractate Shekalim 5: 1-5) as a “חותם” (seal). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an object or anything similar to it was discovered in an archaeological excavation and it constitutes direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period”.

For more reports, see the links provided by Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica.
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