Daily Israel Report

'Matanyahu' Seal Found near Solomon's Temple

Seal with name similar to Prime Minister's found in the physically closest structure to King Solomon's Temple ever unearthed.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/1/2012, 12:50 PM

Matanyahu seal
Matanyahu seal
Israel Antiquities Authority

Another amazing find on the Temple Mount: Archeologists digging under Robinson's Arch in the archeological garden next to the Kotel have found remains of a structure from the late First Temple period, under the base of the drainage ditch currently being exposed.

This is the closest structure, geographically, to King Solomon's Temple ever unearthed.

On the floor of the ancient structure, the diggers discovered an ancient Hebrew seal from the late First Temple period. It is made of semiprecious stone and bears the name of the owner of the seal: "To Matanyahu Son of Ho…" (the rest of the name is not legible).

The name Matanyahu appears twice in Chronicles 1:25, in a section listing names of Hebrews whom King David had appointed to sing G-d's praise and perform other functions at the Holy Tabernacle. A few lines away, the name Netanyahu also appears. Both names are etymologically very close and mean the same thing: "Gift to [or from] G-d."

The seal is about 2 cm. (less than one inch) in diameter. Private seals in First Temple times served people for signing documents and were set on rings.

The archeologists had decided in advance that all of the dirt to come out of this dig would be thoroughly sifted – through use of "wet sifting" and meticulous sorting of the remaining materials in the sieve. The sifting is carried out with the help of thousands of school children from all over Israel, at the Emek Tzurim National Park. About 4,500 pupils participated in the work in the last few months, as well as other volunteers.

Archeologist Eli Shukrun commented, "The name Matanyahu, like the name Netanyahu, means 'gift to G-d.' These names are mentioned several times in Scripture. They are typical of names in the Judean Kingdom at the end of the First Temple period – from the late 8th century BCE until the Temple's destruction in 586 BCE.

"Finding a First Temple seal in the location closest to the Temple Mount is very rare and a very moving experience. It is like a tangible message from the person Matanyahu who lived here over 2,700 years ago. In the ancient structure under the base of the canal, we also found pottery shards typical of the period, on the floor, as well as fallen rocks and remains of a fire."