Center of Ancient Kingdom of Judah Found in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, archaeologists have made an important discovery that is providing new insights into the biblical Kingdom of Judah. They have found what they believe is an administrative center. Hundreds of seals have been unearthed and so have some pagan figurines and this seems to confirm the Biblical narrative about the Kingdom of Judah.
A team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) were working 2 miles (3 km) outside the Old City in Jerusalem and not far from the US Embassy in the Arnona neighborhood. Here they found some Iron Age remains that are ‘exceptional in terms of both its size and architectural style’ Neri Sapir, co-leader of the dig, told The Times of Israel. This is the period known as the First Temple. I24 News reports that it was once a compound that was ‘encircled by concentric walls.’
New Kingdom of Judah Evidence: Seal Stamped Jar Handles
The Israeli archaeologists believe that they found an administrative area. Archaeologists from the IAA believed that it was used ‘during the reigns of Judean kings Hezekiah and Menashe (8th century to the middle of the 7th century BCE)’ reports The Times of Israel. These monarchs feature prominently in the Old Testament. The experts are sure it was an administrative center because of the many jar handles found here marked with the royal Hebrew stamp. It seems that the jars were used to gather taxes paid to the Judean Kings in the form of foodstuffs.
Two-winged royal ancient Hebrew 'LMLK' seal impression from the Kingdom of Judah. (Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority)
The Times of Israel reports that ‘Prevalent among the stamped inscriptions is “LMLK,” “LamMeLeKh,” or “Belonging to the King,” Over twenty of these have been unearthed and they all feature an image of a sun with four wings. Similar seals have been found in other sites dating back to the 8 th and 7 th century BC.
Clay Figurines Suggest Pagan Worship In Ancient Jerusalem
These seals are allowing experts to better understand the administration of the Kingdom of Judea. CBN News quotes the IAA researchers as saying that ‘the seal impressions point to evidence that governmental activity occurred south of the City of David in the latter time of the Kingdom of Judah.’ Also found with the seals were the names of officials, who may have been responsible for specific districts and possibly local powerful landowners. Professor Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University told I24 News that the discoveries show the economic growth of Judah and that ‘Jerusalem was a major player in the Levant.’
Clay figurines of women and animals found at the Arnona, Jerusalem excavation site. (Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority)
However, the archaeologists did not only find jars stamped with seals. They also uncovered curious clay figurine fragments. The co-leaders of the team told The Times of Israel that ‘Some of the figurines are designed in the form of women, horse riders or as animals. These figurines are usually interpreted as objects used in pagan worship and idolatry.’ This is not surprising as pagan practices were still popular in the Kingdom of Judah according to the Old Testament. Moreover, it is known that some Judean kings tolerated paganism much to the anger of many Hebrews.
New Israeli Site Dated to The Sieges of Jerusalem Period
The new Israeli site has been dated to a turbulent period in the history of Judah when King Hezekiah had to defend Jerusalem against the Assyrians. However, while successfully defending the Kingdom of Judah, Hezekiah became a vassal of Assyria in the process. The wealth of seals found at the site indicate that taxation continued during this period of war and instability. CBN News reports the researchers as stating that ‘the excavation revealed that the site continued to be active after the Assyrian conquest.’
In 586 BC the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem and conquered it. Much of the population was taken into captivity. It seems that the administrative center was abandoned but it appears that it was used once again by Jews returning from Babylon in 538 BC. They were allowed to return to their homeland after the Persian king Xerxes defeated the Babylonians. It appears that the Jews administered the local area while remaining part of the Persian Achaemenid. This means the jar handles with seals were used by Jews when they were vassals of both the Persians and Assyrians.
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Ancient Jerusalem Discovery Includes Mysterious Stone Mound
It is believed that a large structure at the administrative center was covered over with a mound of stones at some point and this created a massive cairn. “Nevertheless, the reason for the huge effort made in stacking them over many acres remains an unresolved archaeological mystery,” the archaeologists are quoted by The Times of Israel. Work is expected to continue at the site, and this may help to solve the mystery as to why the building was covered over with stones and make new discoveries about the Kingdom of Judah.
Top image: Aerial image of the Kingdom of Judah excavation, a 2,700-year-old administrative complex in Jerusalem. Source: Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority
By Ed Whelan