JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli archaeologists excavating under an ancient drainage channel near the Temple Mount uncovered a seal from First Temple times, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced in a press release.
The tiny seal, made of semi-precious stone, is engraved with the name of its owner -- l'matanyahu ben ho, partially worn away on one side -- meaning, "belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…." Seals, often affixed to a signet ring, were used to sign letters.
IAA archaeologists excavating under the 2,000-year-old drainage channel are unearthing the remains of a First Temple period building, which is the closest structure to the First Temple ever discovered. The seal was discovered on the floor of the building.
"The name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God," excavation director Eli Shukron said.
"These names are mentioned several times in the Bible. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Judah in latter part of the First Temple period -- from the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE," he said.
"To find a seal from the First Temple period at the foot of the Temple Mount walls is rare and very exciting," he said, calling it a "tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago."
Shukron said they are also finding pottery shards from the period and evidence of a fire.
The excavation beneath Robinson's Arch in the Archaeological Garden adjacent to the Temple Mount is underwritten by the Ir David (City of David) Foundation.