Tiny clay seals reveal First Temple royal treasuries in Jerusalem, researchers say

Bullae recovered from Temple Mount soil and ancient buildings in Ophel Park bear impression of woven fabric, indicating they were used on bags of silver and jars of produce

The clay stamp of Hisilyahu son of Immer, who served as an officials managing the so-called Temple Treasuries. (Tzachi Dvira/Temple Mount Soil Sifting Project)
The clay stamp of Hisilyahu son of Immer, who served as an officials managing the so-called Temple Treasuries. (Tzachi Dvira/Temple Mount Soil Sifting Project)

Dozens of inscribed clay seal impressions recovered during excavations near the Temple Mount have been identified as evidence of two treasuries in ancient Jerusalem in the late 8th century BCE, researchers said Thursday.

Archaeologists said the clay impressions, or bullae, were used for the management of storehouses during the First Temple period.

In ancient times, the lumps of clay were pressed over the knot of a cord securing a doorknob or a vessel, and the manager of a treasury would then impress his, or his superior’s, seal upon the clay to prevent others from tampering.

Archaeologists Zachi Dvira and Dr. Gabriel Barkay found that on the reverse side of several bullae in Jerusalem, an impression of woven fabric appeared, which they said indicated some were attached to small bags containing pieces of silver or precious metals, while others were likely attached to fabric that covered ceramic jars used to store agricultural produce.

The bullae were revealed during the sifting of Temple Mount soil and in excavations at the Ophel Park adjacent to the mount. The researchers said the findings constitute concrete evidence of the existence of two central treasuries in Jerusalem, which managed the economy of the Kingdom of Judah.

According to the researchers, the names that appeared on the bullae in the Paleo-Hebrew script were of the chief treasurers in charge of the so-called Temple Treasury and the Royal Treasury of the Kingdom of Judah.

The so-called Royal Building in Ophel Park, which has been identified by researchers as a royal treasury. (Yosef Lalush/Temple Mount Soil Sifting Project)

The Royal Treasury was located in the “Royal Building” located in the Ophel Park, in which numerous storage jars were found, and more recently, at least 34 bullae were discovered. Nearly half of those seals had impressions of woven fabric, the study said.

The full name on one of the Temple Mount soil seals was Hisilyahu son of Immer, who apparently served as one of the officials managing the so-called Temple Treasuries, the researchers said. They tied him to a priestly family that served in the Temple in the 7th or early 6th century BCE.

Other artifacts discovered in the building strengthen the researchers’ suggestion that it was indeed a treasury, since a partial inscription was found on a storage jar that they suggested read “minister of the treasuries.”

Clay stamps discovered near the so-called Royal Building in Ophel Park in Jerusalem. (Uriah Tadmor/Temple Mount Soil Sifting Project)

While excavations aren’t permitted on the Temple Mount itself, the researchers said the bulla of the son of Immer is the first Hebrew inscription from the First Temple period that originates from the mount.

Some 9,000 tons of soil were apparently illegally excavated and removed from the Temple Mount in 1999 by the Islamic Religious Trust, also known as Waqf. The dumped dirt was eventually transferred to a specialized sifting facility in Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, where experts and tourists have revealed hundreds of thousands of artifacts.

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