Archaeologists have found two seals with Hebrew names, dating back to the time of the First Temple, in Jerusalem's City of David. The objects belonged to a woman and a man, Elihana bat Gael and Sa'aryahu ben Shabenyahu.
"Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon," said a researcher with the project.
The artifacts were discovered in a prominent building that is believed to have served as an administrative center.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, along with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation, have been digging at the former Givati parking lot for the past nine years.
Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, the archaeologists in charge of the site, explain that "Personal seals, such as those of Elihana and Sa‘aryahu, were used for signing documents, and were frequently inlaid as part of a ring that was worn by the owner. In antiquity they designated the identity, genealogy and status of the owner of the seal."
Dr. Hagai Misgav further noted the significance of Elihana bat Gael's seal: "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. 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.
Dr. Misgav adds, "Most of the women’s seal that are known to us bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband. Here, as in other cases, this might indicate the relatively elevated status of Elihana, which depended on her original family, and not on her husband’s family. It seems that Elihana maintained her right to property and financial independence even after her marriage and therefore her father’s name was retained; however, we do not have sufficient information about the law in Judah during this period."