>Eilat Mazar Revises Her Position on Ancient Seal

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition is reporting on its February 4, 2008 edition that Eilat Mazar has changed her original reading of an ancient seal found at an excavation in Jerusalem and accepted the opinion of several epigraphers on the correct reading of the seal. The following is an excerpt of the news report published by the Jerusalem Post Online:

A prominent Israeli archeologist said Monday that she has revised her reading of an inscription on ancient seal uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem’s City of David after various scholars around the world critiqued her original interpretation of the name on the seal.

The 2,500 year-old black stone seal was found last month amid stratified layers of debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

Mazar had originally read the name on the seal as “Temech,” and suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.

But after the find was first reported in The Jerusalem Post, various epigraphers around the world said Mazar had erred by reading the inscription on the seal straight on (from right to left) rather than backwards (from left to right), as a result of the fact that a seal creates a mirror image when used to inscribe a piece of clay.

The critics, including the European scholar Peter van der Veen, as well as the epigrapher Ryan Byrne, co-director of the Tel Dan excavations, suggested in Internet blogs that the correct reading of the seal is actually “Shlomit,” also a biblical name.

Mazar said Monday that she accepted the reading of “Shlomit” on the ancient seal, and added that she appreciated the scholarly research on the issue.

She noted that the name Shlomit was known in the period form which the seal dated, and that other contemporary seals had been found that bore names of women who held official status in the administration.

It was not clear whether the name on the seal had any connection to the daughter of Zerubbabel by the same time mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19, since the name was apparently common in the period.

Read the news release by visiting the Jerusalem Post Online.

Mazar’s reading of the inscription has been challegend by several bloggers, including Peter van der Veen, here and here, and by Chris Heard at Higgaion (and follow the comments at the end of Chris’s post).

For a full discussion of the issue with links, visit the review by Kevin P. Edgecomb at biblicalia.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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