Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old seal that bears the inscription "Bethlehem". Eexperts believe it to be the oldest artifact with the name of Jesus' traditional birthplace.
The tiny clay seal's existence and age provide vivid evidence that Bethlehem was not just the name of a fabled biblical town, but also a bustling place of trade linked to the nearby city of Jerusalem.
The seal dates back to the period of the first biblical Jewish Temple, at a time when Jewish kings reigned over the ancient kingdom of Judah, and 700 years before Jesus was born.
The seal was written in ancient Hebrew script from the same time. Pottery found nearby also dated back to the same period. The stamp was likely used to seal an administrative tax document, sent from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish power at the time. It was found as archaeologists sifted through mounds of dirt they had dug up in an excavation outside Jerusalem's Old City walls.
The discovery is the oldest reference to Bethlehem ever found outside of the Bible.