A huge administrative storage center from the days of Kings Hezekiah and Manasseh (8th century to the middle of the 7th century BCE) has recently been exposed at archeological excavations in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the US Embassy.
Excavation at the site revealed an unusually large structure built of concentric ashlars walls.
Of particular interest, 120 jar handles were found bearing seal impressions containing ancient Hebrew script.
Many of the handles bare the inscription “LMLK” – (belonging) to the King- with the name of an ancient city, while others feature the names of senior officials or wealthy individuals from the First Temple Period.
This is one of the largest and most important collections of seal impressions ever uncovered in archaeological excavations in Israel.
“This is one of the most significant discoveries from the period of the Kings in Jerusalem made in recent years. Evidence shows that at this site, taxes were collected in an orderly manner for agricultural products such as wine and olive oil,” said Neria Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari, directors of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Some of the storage jar handles are inscribed with the names of senior officials and wealthy individuals from the Kingdom of Judah – Naham Abdi, Naham Hatzlihu, Meshalem Elnatan, Zafan Abmetz, Shaneah Azaria, Shalem Acha and Shivna Shachar.
It is estimated that these are senior officials who were in charge of specific economic areas, or perhaps wealthy individuals at that time – those who owned large agricultural lands, propelled the economy of their district and owned private seals.
The excavators also posit that the large number of seal impressions at the site clearly indicate that during the latter part of the Kingdom of Judah, governmental activity took place in the area south of the City of David. It is also possible that this governmental activity was related to the nearby site of Ramat Rachel, which may be identified with the palace of the Kings of Judah and/or as an administrative center.
Another find that sheds light on the character of the period is a collection of figurines – clay statuettes. According to archaeologists Sapir and Ben-Ari, “Some of the figurines are designed in the form of women, horse riders or as animals. These figurines are usually interpreted as objects used in pagan worship and idolatry – a phenomenon, which according to the Bible, was prevalent in the Kingdom of Judah.”
According to Dr. Yuval Baruch, the IAA Jerusalem District Archaeologist, “The archeological discoveries at Arnona identify the site as a key site – the most important in the history of the final days of the Kingdom of Judah and of the return to Zion decades after the destruction of the Kingdom.
This site joins a number of other key sites uncovered in the area of Jerusalem which were connected to the centralized administrative system of the Kingdom of Judah from its peak until its destruction.