Dozens of inscribed clay seals dating back 2600 years, during the First Temple period, have been found near the Temple Mount, some inscribed with Biblical names. They were recovered during excavations near the Temple Mount. 

Zachi Dvira and Dr Gabriel Barkay of the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) analysed the clay seals, known as bulla, and will be releasing their study in an upcoming edition of the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.

These pieces of unfired clay were used in storehouses during the First Temple period 2600 years ago, say archaeologists. To secure storerooms, doors and storage vessel openings, a lump of clay was pressed over the knot of the cord that tied them shut. The administrator of the treasury would then impress his seal upon the clay to prevent tampering by unauthorized persons because to open the seal it would need to be broken. This is similar to wax seals on letters, an ancient way to make sure no one read your mail. 

In the Old Testament, Pharaoh gave his own signet ring to Joseph, giving him the important position of being the one in charge of the treasury (Gen 41:38-44).

 “Scholars usually don’t consider the back of the seals, but by doing it, a lot can be learned, especially about the type of objects they were attached to,” said Dvira. About a quarter of the seals’ reverse sides had impressions of woven fabrics, suggesting that they were used to seal small bags. Seals with flat backs most likely covered woven cloth that was used to store agricultural produce such as wine, oil, grain and honey.

“Evidence has been found that the remains of the broken sealings were saved in order to document the number of times that the storage area was opened,” the TMSA researchers wrote. “Thus, this method of securing commodities also served as a system of ‘book-keeping.’ In addition, by examining the names of the officials appearing on this type of sealings, it is possible to ascertain the names of the chief administrator of the treasury as well as to establish the fact that those who assisted him were generally members of his family.”

Read the full report here:

Patterns of Evidence