Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a stunning ancient site near the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The artifacts from the rule of Judean kings Hezekiah and Manasseh found exactly as they were left when Babylonians conquered Judah and took the Jewish people into captivity.
The discovery was made in Arnona, the affluent neighborhood in southern Jerusalem where the embassy is located. In a statement the Israel Antiquities Authority said that archaeologists discovered “an unusually large structure” built of concentric walls. Some 120 jar handles were also found bearing seal impressions with ancient Hebrew script.
In ancient times, a seal stamp, or bulla, was used to authenticate documents or items. Many of the handles have the inscription “LMLK,” (to the king), along with the name of an ancient city, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Also found among the Arnona impressions and at other excavations are names of senior officials and wealthy individuals from the Kingdom of Judah period between 960 BCE and 586 BCE.: Naham Abdi, Naham Hatzlihu, Meshalem Elnatan, Zafan Abmetz, Shaneah Azaria, Shalem Acha and Shivna Shachar.
“These names appear on storage jar handles at various sites across the Kingdom of Judah and attest to the elite position of those whose names are impressed on the jars,” said the archaeologists. It is hypothesized that these are senior officials who were in charge of specific economic areas, or perhaps wealthy individuals at that time — those who owned large agricultural lands, propelled the economy of their district, and owned private seals.”
The site is believed to be a storage facility from the time of the ancient Judean kings Hezekiah and Menashe.
“This is one of the most significant discoveries from the period of the Kings in Jerusalem made in recent years,” said Neria Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari, directors of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the statement. The site was used to store food supplies, they explained.
Small statuettes made from clay were also discovered at the site. “Some of the figurines are designed in the form of women, horse riders or as animal,” said Sapir and Ben-Ari, in the statement. “These figurines are usually interpreted as objects used in pagan worship and idolatry – a phenomenon which, according to the Bible, was prevalent in the Kingdom of Judah.”
“It seems that shortly after the site was abandoned, with the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE and Babylonian exile, the site was resettled and administrative activity resumed,” they added. “During this time governmental activity at the site was connected to the Judean province upon the Return to Zion in 538 BCE under the auspices of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which then ruled over the entire ancient Near East and Central Asia.”
The archaeologists’ findings corresponds with the hypothesis presented by the Tel Aviv University article on the jar handles. “The stamped jar handles were part of the Judahite administrative system that was already established when Judah became an Assyrian vassal kingdom and continued to be in use as long as Judah was a vassal kingdom and afterwards a province under the rule of the Babylonian, Persian and Ptolemaic empires.”
After this resumption of activity at the Arnona administration site, however, at some point thousands of years ago the large building at the site was covered over with a massive pile of flint stones to create a 20-meter (65.5 foot) artificial hill spread over seven dunams that is still visible to the naked eye. The archaeologists think that another storage facility may be under the stones.
“These artificial stone hills have been identified at several sites in Jerusalem and are a phenomenon of the end of the First Temple period and have aroused the curiosity and fascination of Jerusalem researchers since the beginning of archaeological research in the area,” said the archaeologists.
“Nevertheless, the reason for the huge effort made in stacking them over many acres remains an unresolved archaeological mystery,” they said.
Israel continues to reveal new aspects of its rich history. Hidden underground chambers dating back 2,000 years, for example, were recently discovered near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Earlier this year, an international team of archaeologists uncovered an ancient Biblical era temple in what is now National Park Tel Lachish.
Last year, the room in Jerusalem venerated as the site of Jesus’ Last Supper was revealed in stunning detail thanks to remarkable 3D laser scanning technology.
A Christian holy site, the Cenacle (from the Latin for ‘dining room’), is located on the upper floor of the King David’s Tomb complex on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion.
–FNC news service and Times of Israel