Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ancient seal believed to be linked to religious ceremonies in Jerusalem

Ancient seal believed to be linked to religious ceremonies in Jerusalem | Maria News

Israeli archaeologists say that a rare clay seal found under Jerusalem's Old City appears to be linked to religious rituals practiced at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago. Two Aramaic words meaning "pure for God" are inscribed on the coin-sized seal found near the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said it dates from between the first century B.C. to 70 A.D., when Roman forces quelled a Jewish revolt and destroyed the second of the two biblical temples in Jerusalem.

The seal is the very first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history. Reich says that the seal is a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple.

Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself — the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – is forbidden to archaeologists and excavations due to its religious and political sensitivity.

Archaeologists say the seal was likely used by Temple officials approving an object for ritual use such as oil or an animal intended for sacrifice. Materials used by Temple priests had to meet stringent purity guidelines stipulated in detail in the Jewish legal text known as the Mishna, which also mention the use of seals as tokens by pilgrims.

Reich says that the find is "the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount — the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the Temple itself."

The site where the seal was found is on the route of a main street that ran through ancient Jerusalem just outside the Temple compound.

The seal "was found right next to the Temple and is similar to what we see described in the Mishna," Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, a biblical archaeologist not connected to the dig says. "It's nice when we can connect an activity recorded in ancient sources with archaeological finds," he said.

The dig is under the auspices of a broader dig nearby known as the City of David, where archaeologists are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.

The City of David dig, located inside the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and funded by a Jewish group affiliated with the settlement movement, is the Holy Land's highest-profile and most politically controversial excavation.