In archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out at the behest of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, a rare and impressive Hebrew seal was discovered that dates to the latter part of the First Temple period. The seal was found in a building that is currently being uncovered, which dates to the seventh century BCE – to the time when the kings Manasseh and Josiah reigned.
The seal will be shown today (Thursday, October 30, 2008) during a study day dealing with “Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings”, organized by the Jerusalem Region of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
According to the excavation director, archaeologist Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah of the IAA, “The seal, which apparently belonged to a private individual, is made of black stone, is elliptical in shape and measures 1.2 x 1.4 cm. It is adorned with an engraved decoration of an archer shooting a bow and arrow. The name of the archer is engraved in ancient Hebrew script next to him and reads LHGB (meaning: for Hagab). The name Hagab is mentioned in the Bible in Ezra 2:46, as well as in the Lachish Letters, which also date to the time of the First Temple”.
The seal was sent for expert evaluation to Professor Benjamin Sass of the Tel Aviv University and Dr. Tali Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. According to them the image of the archer was influenced by Assyrian wall reliefs in which archers are portrayed shooting bows and arrows – such as those that are known from the Lachish relief. The image of the archer appears in profile: he is standing in a firing position with his right foot in front of his left. His face is portrayed schematically but his body, his dress and especially the muscles of his arms and legs stand out prominently. He is barefoot.
His attire includes a headband and a skirt that is wrapped around his hips. A quiver hangs from his back and its straps are drawn tightly across his exposed chest. He is holding a bow and arrow in his hands. His right hand is extended forward holding the bow while his left is pulled back grasping the arrow. The seal is quite unique since this is the first time that a private seal has been discovered that bears a Hebrew name and is decorated in the Assyrian style. The seal attests to the strong Assyrian influence that existed in Jerusalem in the seventh century BCE. It is usually assumed that the owner of private seals were individuals who held government positions. We can suggest that the owner of the seal – Hagab, who chose to portray himself as a Hebrew archer depicted in the Assyrian style – served in a senior military role in Judah.
In the building where Hagab’s seal was discovered, archaeologist Wexler-Bdolah has previously found a number of Hebrew seals of individuals that held public positions, as well as ten handles of storage jars for oil and wine that are stamped with royal impressions. According to her, “This building was erected at the foot of the Upper City, at a distance of about one hundred meters from the Western Wall and it looks out over the Temple Mount. The walls of the structure were preserved to an amazing height of approximately five meters. The high quality of its construction and the artifacts that were discovered inside it indicate that the building and especially its inhabitants had a very important status in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period.”
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