Two 2,500-year-old seals — one belonging to an “exceptional” woman — were found outside of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday in what it termed a rare discovery.
The first First Temple-era find, made of semiprecious stone and bearing the name “Elihana bat Gael,” indicated the woman who owned the seal was affluent. The second seal, found in the same area, belonged to “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,” the IAA said in a statement.
The “owner of the seal was exceptional compared to other women of the First Temple period: she had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property,” it said.
Archaeologists believe the building where the two seals were located — in what is now the Givati parking lot — served as an administrative center.
“The name Eliha is known from a contemporary Ammonite seal and is the feminine form of the name Eli, known from the Bible,” said the IAA.
“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,” said Dr. Hagai Misgav of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
“Most of the women’s seals 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,” he added.