2,500-year-old woman's stamp of authority discovered

By Rosa Doherty, March 10, 2016
Elihana's seal

Elihana's seal

In a discovery that appeared to be timed perfectly for International Women's Day last Tuesday, a 2,500-year-old artefact belonging to an "exceptional" woman was unearthed in Israel.

Archaeologists who were excavating a site outside Jerusalem's Old City found a seal made from semi-precious stone and bearing the name, "Elihana bat Gael".

It is the first such item to be found from the First Temple era when it was rare for women to be allowed to possess their own seals.

A spokesperson for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: "Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon."

He added: "The owner of the seal was exceptional compared to other women of the First Temple period: she had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property."

Dr Hagai Misgav of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem said that seals that belonged to women represent a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date.

"This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances such as this."

Describing Elihana as having enjoyed "relatively elevated status, Dr Misgav said: "It seems that Elihana maintained her right to property and financial independence even after her marriage."

The ancient seal was one of two found at the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The second seal, found in the same area, belonged to a man called "Sa'aryahu ben Shabenyahu."

Archaeologists believe the building where the seals were located, which is now the Givati car park, served as an administrative centre in biblical times.

Last updated: 11:58am, March 10 2016