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First Temple Find

Back in November of 2008, an important discovery was made during an ongoing archaeological excavation under the auspices of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The excavations are taking place at the northwestern section of Jerusalem's Western Wall plaza. The archaeologists discovered a rare Hebrew seal that dates to the later part of the First Temple period. The seal was found during the careful uncovering of a building that dates back to the seventh century BCE. The biblical rulers at this time were the kings Manasseh and Josiah.

Bow And Arrow

The excavations are directed by archaeologist Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah, from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Bdolah described the seal in detail, "The seal, which apparently belonged to a private individual, is made of black stone, is elliptical in shape and measures 1.2 x 1.4 cm. It is adorned with an engraved decoration of an archer shooting a bow and arrow."

"For Hagab"

Bdolah further commented that the engraved name of the archer appears in ancient Hebrew script alongside of him. The letters of the name read: LHGB, which the archaeologist explains as "for Hagab." The name Hagab can be found in Ezra 2:46 and is also mentioned in the Lachish Letters, a cuneiform tablet which dates to the First Temple.

The seal was sent on to be evaluated by two eminent experts, Professor Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Tali Ornan, of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. These two experts say that the image of the archer is influenced by Assyrian wall reliefs, which depict archers practicing their sport. Images such as these can be seen in the Lachish relief. The archer's face appears in profile. The archer is in firing position with his right foot forward. The face of the barefoot archer is only sketched, but his body, dress, and his very muscular arms and legs are portrayed with great detail in bas relief.

The seal depicts the archer in a headband, wearing a wraparound skirt. A quiver of arrows hangs from his back, strapped tight to his bare chest. The figure is grasping a bow and arrow. His right hand is held out, holding the bow, as his left hand pulls back, clutching an arrow.

Assyrian Influences

The seal is unique in that it is the first private seal ever found which bears a Hebrew name and is Assyrian in design. The seal suggests that Assyrian influences in 7th century BCE Jerusalem were quite strong. Those who owned private seals were, in general, high-placed, and the seal suggests that Hagab, who portrays himself as a Hebrew archer and was the owner of this seal, served in a military position in Judea.

Wexler-Bdolah has found many other Hebrew seals of important individuals at the same site, along with ten handles of oil and wine jars which were stamped with the royal mark. The site is only 100 meters from the Western Wall and looks out over the Temple Mount. The structure's walls are very well-preserved and are five meters high. The high quality of the construction and the artifacts found thus far, suggest that the building and its inhabitants held high status in Jerusalem at the latter part of the First Temple period.


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