A veryrare 2,500-year old seal inscribed in Hebrew “to Elihana bat Gael” was unearthed in a large ancient building at the City of David outside the Old City of Jerusalem’s wall, after a nine-year excavation. A second seal was inscribed “to Sa’ariyahu ben Shabenyahu. It is especially unusual to find a seal bearing the name of a woman from the First Temple period (Solomon and David). According to the leaders of the excavation, Dr. Doron Ben Ami, Yana Tchekhanovitch and Salome Cohen, it denotes a woman of high rank compared to most women of that period. Unlike them, she enjoyed legal status and was permitted to conduct business and own property.
Personal seals, usually mounted on rings, were used for signing documents and considered the hallmark of identity and status. This makes the unknown identities of Elihana and Sa’ariyahu all the more intriguing.
The name Eliha is known from a contemporaneous Ammonite seal and may possibly denote her foreign origin east of the Jordan River, although it is the feminine form of Eli, a Hebrew name appearing in the Bible.
The City of David dig is sponsored by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation.