Israeli archeologists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced on December 2 that they had discovered an impression from the seal belonging to the Biblical Judean king, King Hezekiah, who was best known for turning Jerusalem into a metropolis, during excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Hezekiah, who ruled around 700 BCE, was described in the Bible as a bold king who was committed to stopping idolatry in his kingdom. The Bible says of Hezekiah: “There was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him” (II Kings 18:5).
“Hezekiah is depicted as both a resourceful and daring king, who centralized power in his hands,” the university said. “Although he was an Assyrian vassal, he successfully maintained the independent standing of the Judean Kingdom and its capital Jerusalem, which he enhanced economically, religiously, and diplomatically.”
The oval impression dates back to between 727-698 BCE, measures 9.7 by 8.6 mm., and was imprinted on a 3 mm. thick soft bulla, or piece of inscribed clay, that measures 13 by 12 mm.
Around the impression is the indentation from the frame of the ring in which the seal was set. The impression also features an inscription in ancient Hebrew script that says, “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah,” alongside a two-winged sun with wings turned downward and flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.
The impression had been buried in a refuse dump that dates back to the time of Hezekiah and was probably thrown away from an adjacent royal building.
At first, the bulla was cataloged and put away in a closet alongside 33 other items when a first inspection did not reveal its true identity.
It was only five years later, when a team member looked at it under a magnifying glass and was able to make out the dots between the letters, that its true identity became clear.
“The bulla was discovered in a refuse dump dated to the time of King Hezekiah or shortly after, and originated in the Royal Building that stood next to it, and appears to have been used to store foodstuffs,” HU said in a statement.
“This building, one of a series of structures that also included a gatehouse and towers, was constructed in the second half of the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) as part of the fortifications of the Ophel – the new governmental quarter that was built in the area that connects the City of David with the Temple Mount.”
Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who helped to direct the excavation where the bulla was uncovered, said that the back side of the clay imprint of the seal had markings of thin cords that had been used to tie a papyrus document.
“It’s always a question, what are the real facts behind the biblical stories,” Mazar said. “Here we have a chance to get as close as possible to the person himself, to the king himself.”