2,500-year-old seal belonging to ‘exceptional’ woman unearthed in Jerusalem

A 2,500-year-old seal unearthed in Jerusalem. Archaeologists believe the seal may have belonged to what they called an "exceptional" woman. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

(JNS.org) A 2,500-year-old seal dating back to the First Temple period was recently unearthed in Jerusalem. Archaeologists believe the seal may have belonged to an “exceptional” woman.

According to excavation directors Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets, and Salome Cohen, “the owner of the seal was exceptional compared to other women of the First Temple period: she had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property.”

The seal was found as part of a nine-year excavation being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Givati parking lot of the City of David, which is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park. 

The IAA said the rare woman’s seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, has the words “to Elihana bat Gael” inscribed in ancient Hebrew, with the female owner of the ring mentioned together with the name of her father. 

“Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small 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 such as this,” said Dr. Hagai Misgav of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, adding, “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.”

Archaeologists speculate that Elihana may have maintained her right to property and financial independence even after her marriage, and that therefore, the name of her father was retained. Yet archaeologists admitted that they could not make a definitive assessment. 

Additionally, archaeologists believe Elihana may have been of foreign origin, coming from east of the Jordan River, since the script appearing on the seal is remarkably similar to script on Ammonite seals. 

Another seal bearing the inscription “to Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu” was found in the excavation. 

Posted on March 7, 2016 .