Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have discovered a personal Hebrew seal bearing the name “Matanyahu” on the floor of an ancient building dating back to the end of the First Temple period.
The seal is made of a semi-precious stone and is engraved with the name of its owner “למתניהו בן הו…” (or “Lematanyahu Ben Ho…”) meaning “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…”, the rest of the inscription is erased.
“The name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means giving to God. These names are mentioned several times in the Bible,” said Eli Shukron, an excavation director at the Israel Antiquities Authority. “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.”
People used personal seals in the First Temple period for the purpose of signing letters and they were set in a signet ring. The seals served to identify their owner, just as they identify officials today.
“To find a seal from the First Temple period at the foot of the Temple Mount walls is rare and very exciting. This is a tangible greeting of sorts from a man named Matanyahu who lived here more than 2,700 years ago.”
The archaeologists found the seal on the floor of an ancient building dating back to the end of the First Temple period. The building was unearthed beneath the base of an ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in the excavations beneath Robinson’s Arch in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. This building is the closest structure to the First Temple found to date in archaeological excavations.
“We also found pottery sherds characteristic of the period on the floor in the ancient building beneath the base of the drainage channel, as well as stone collapse and evidence of a fire,” Shukron said.