Jerusalem: Expert takes a look at amethyst gemstone seal

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Archaeologists have dated the violet amethyst to about 2,000 years ago when the Second Temple still towered over Roman-occupied Jerusalem. The gemstone was found while sifting through the bedrock of the Temple Mount’s Western Wall at the Zurim Valley National Park in East Jerusalem. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), it is a “one-of-a-kind” discovery and the small, oval stone was likely used as a personal seal during the Second Temple period (516 BC and 70 AD).

The IAA announced on Facebook: “A one-of-a-kind amethyst gemstone seal from the Second Temple period with a unique engraving – was discovered in the bedrock foundations of the Western Wall!

“During the sifting of excavated earth from the base of the Western Wall carried out by the City of David in the Zurim Valley National Park, participants were surprised to discover a tiny oval stone that served as a seal during the Second Temple period, about 2000 years ago.”

In ancient Israel, seals like this were used to stamp official documents but were also worn as a fashion statement.

The amethyst seal bears a small hole which suggests it was worn on a metal wire as a ring.

The semi-precious stone was found among the rubble from one of the ancient drainage channels running under Jerusalem, just north of the City of David and next to the Western Wall.

According to Eli Shukron, former IAA archaeologist, it is likely the seal slipped off its owner’s hand and was lost in the city’s drainage system for 2,000 years.

Even more surprisingly, the seal has been engraved with the image of a dove next to a peculiar fruit-bearing branch.

This has proven to be something of a mystery at first, as the fruit branch did not appear to match any other seals from the same time period.

Jerusalem: Archaeologist discusses gem seal discovery

The archaeologists’ hunt for answers led them to a farm far outside of Jerusalem, where they matched it to the biblical persimmon fruit plant.

Mr Shukron said: “Once we found the seal with the branch and the fruit we hypothesised that it was the biblical persimmon fruit plant as mentioned in the Bible and the sources of the Second Temple Period and the Byzantine period.”

The biblical persimmon is not related to the modern-day persimmon fruit but features prominently in the Hebrew Bible and other sources.

According to the IAA, the fruit was used during the Second Temple period to manufacture incense, perfume, medicines, and ointments.

Mr Shukron said: “This is an important find because it may be the first time a seal has been discovered with an engraving of the precious and famous plant, which until now we could only read about in historical descriptions.”

The Second Temple was the second Jewish Holy Temple erected on the Temple Mount, after the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC.

According to biblical sources, the house of worship began as a modest structure that was greatly expanded upon by King Herod the Great.

However, this temple too was toppled by the Romans as punishment for the First Jewish–Roman War (66 to 73 CE).

Today, the Temple Mount, also known as the Haram esh-Sharif in Arabic, is the site of the Al Aqsa Compound – the third holiest site in the Muslim world.

Another popular type of seal found in ancient Israel, the so-called bulla, was fashioned from clay or soft wax and often used by individuals of great renown.

Earlier this year, Israeli archaeologists presented their discovery of a 7,000-year-old clay seal that predates the art of writing in the region.

The item was dated to Israel’s Early Bronze Age I (3500 to 2900 BC) and was found at the archaeological site of Tel Tsaf in the Beit She’an Valley.

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