A small stone seal at least 2,600 years old and bearing a Hebrew name has been found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.
According to the ancient Hebrew inscription, the seal belonged to a man named Matanyahu, meaning “gift of God.”
It identifies him as the son of a man whose name started with the letters “Ho” — the rest did not survive.
No more than two dozen such seals have been found since excavations began in Jerusalem in the 1800s, according to Antiquities Authority archaeologist Eli Shukron.
“Finding something like this is like getting regards from a real person who lived here thousands of years ago,” he told The Times of Israel.
The seal was found in a structure adjacent to the Temple Mount that dates to what biblical archaeologists think of as the time of the First Temple – between the end of the 8th century BCE and 586 BCE.
Workers excavating a Roman-era drainage tunnel along the western side of the Temple Mount uncovered the structure and removed rubble that was then sifted by volunteers, resulting in the seal’s discovery.
The area around the sacred enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and the adjacent neighborhood of Silwan, just outside the Old City walls, are the scene of intense and often controversial archaeological activity.
The digs, including the one in which the seal was found, are carried out by the Antiquities Authority and funded by Elad, an organization associated with the Israeli settlement movement that also works to move Jewish families into the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan, the site of an important excavation known as the City of David.