An ancient two-shekel weight has been unearthed beneath Wilson’s Arch, adjacent to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Tuesday.

The limestone weight, dating back to the Iron Age/First Temple period, was discovered during an archaeological dig conducted by the IAA in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. It was revealed during the sifting of earthen fills at the site, which is soon to be included in the tour of the Western Wall Tunnels.

IAA excavation directors Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman described the weight as “dome-shaped with a flat base … on top of which is an incised Egyptian symbol resembling a Greek gamma (γ), representing the abbreviated unit ‘shekel,’ [making the] two incised lines indicate … double [that amount].”

According to the directors, “One of the uses of the shekel weight system during the First Temple period was to collect an annual tax of half a shekel dedicated to the sacrifices and upkeep of the Temple.”

The weight of a single shekel—11.5 grams—is known from earlier finds, they said, and thus a double shekel should weigh 23 grams, “exactly as this weight does.”

“[The] accuracy of the weight attests to advanced technological skills, as well as to the weight given to precise trade and commerce in ancient Jerusalem. Coins were not yet in use during this period; therefore, accuracy of the weights played a significant role in business,” they said.

“Year-round and especially during the times of pilgrimage, the area at the foot of the Temple Mount was sure to be busy. Locals and pilgrims would have traded for sacrifices and offerings as well as for food, souvenirs and other commodities. A weight such as the one discovered would have been used to measure accurate amounts of products at the market,” they added.

“How exciting, in the month of Tishrei, whose symbol is the scales of justice, to find a souvenir from the First Temple period,” said Western Wall Heritage Foundation director Mordechai (Suli) Eliav.

“Actually now, when coming to the Western Wall is so restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, this finding strengthens the eternal connection between the Jewish nation, Jerusalem, and the Western Wall while offering us all encouragement,” he said.

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