Jerusalem archaeologists digging in the remains of the closest building to the First Temple yet excavated announced today the discovery of a seal bearing the name Matanyahu, or Mattaniah, as it is rendered in most English-language Bibles.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the “remains of a building dating to the end of the First Temple period were discovered below the base of the ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in IAA excavations beneath Robinson’s Arch in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.”
The personal Hebrew seal from the end of the First Temple Period was discovered on the floor of the ancient building. The seal, made of a semi-precious stone, is engraved with the name of its owner, “Lematanyahu Ben Ho …,” meaning: “Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho …” The remainder of the inscription has been erased.
Mattaniah was a common First Temple-period name.
According to Eli Shukron, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “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 latter part of the First Temple period–from the end of the eighth century B.C.E. until the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E.
“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. 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.”
Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
The ancient house was found while excavating a 2,000-year-old drainage channel that ran the length of the western edge of the Temple Mount as well as the ancient City of David down to the Ben Hinnom and Kidron Valleys.
Archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer, commenting on the location of the find at the Temple Mount’s southwest corner, noted that the Second Temple-era drainage channel cut through two Iron Age tombs – the time of King David – at that location.
“As tombs are usually found outside the city walls (apart from the tombs of the kings), they probably date from before the time of King Hezekiah, who was the first king to include this area within his expanded city, when he built a wall round the Western Hill of Jerusalem. The building remains probably date to a time when pressure of space turned this location into a residential area, which could only have happened from the time of Hezekiah and onward.”
The Bible mentions characters who were both levites from the time of King David and King Hezekiah.
The find – and similar ones recently made around the Temple Mount – is the result of the use of both dry- and wet-sifting techniques. The latter has proven successful in discovering small artifacts often missed otherwise.