A 2,700-year-old seal bearing a name similar to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been unearthed near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
Found within the remains of a building dating to the First Temple period –- between the end of the eighth century B.C. and 586 B.C. — the seal is made of a semiprecious stone.
According to the ancient Hebrew inscription, it belonged to Matanyahu, who was the son of a man whose name started with the letters "Ho" : "Lematanyahu Ben Ho … " (meaning: "Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho …"). Unfortunately, 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. They are typical of the names in the Kingdom of Judah in the latter part of the First Temple period," Eli Shukron, director of excavation for the IAA, said.
Less than 1 inch in diameter, the personal seal was set in a ring and used for signing letters.
"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," Shukron said.
Photo: The 2,700-year-old seal. Credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.