A very rare stone engraved with ancient Hebrew letters has been discovered in the rubble of a Jerusalem excavation site.

The extremely tiny stone, called a “beka”, was used as a counting weight during the First Temple period. Only a few similar stone beka weights have been unearthed in Jerusalem, and according to experts, none of those previously discovered have the same exact inscription as the one that was just found.

Tiny First Temple counting weight is unearthed at Jerusalem excavation site

Israeli media reports about this rare find (see here, here, and here) note that the artifact was discovered by a volunteer who was sifting through soil that had been removed back in 2013 from a dig near the Western Wall at the foot of Robinson’s Arch.

The dirt had been transferred from that excavation area to the City of David sifting project in Jerusalem’s Emek Tzurim National Park so that it could be carefully sorted. It was during this process that the minuscule biblical stone weight was uncovered.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/straight-from-the-bible-tiny-first-temple-stone-weight-unearthed-in-jerusalem/

[Credit: Times of Israel]

The “beka” weight from the First Temple period was used by Jewish pilgrims who would’ve been required to pay a ‘half-shekel’ tax before they could ascend to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. The stone weight is actually described in the Bible (Book of Exodus 38, verse 26), where its use is recorded as a way of evaluating the donations that Jews were expected to bring for the maintenance and upkeep of the Temple and the census.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron, who directs the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explains:

When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of twenty years and up was required to bring to the Temple.”

This particular beka is a momentous discovery because it’s the only example to date with an inscription written in “mirror writing”—that is, the letters on the stone are engraved from left to right instead of from right to left. This finding has led Shukron to conclude that the First Temple artisans who carved and engraved stone weights (bekas) during that time period were the same artists who also created seals, which were always written in mirror script so that once stamped the letters would appear in legible script.

In the case of this stone weight, the artisan must have made a mistake by writing backwards. Basically, Shukron thinks that the “seal craftsman got confused when he engraved the inscription on the weight and mistakenly used mirror script as he was used to doing.”

So, beka weights (and in fact any artifacts) from the First Temple period are extremely rare—but this weight is even rarer because it shows how “everything is connected” in antiquity, including the Bible, the artifact found close to Solomon’s Temple, and the Jewish Temple’s very foundations.

A momentous discovery that underscores the Jewish attachment to Israel’s capital city

The recently discovered First Temple artifact has provided historians with a new understanding of artisan specializations in biblical times. But it’s not only an important find for this reason. It also provides further proof of an ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

As we noted in a prior post, for years Palestinians have been denying and denigrating the Jewish people’s attachment to Jerusalem and to the Land of Israel even as they’ve been doubling-down on their own claim to ‘Palestine’ in antiquity and to family lineages in the Holy Land that predate that of the ancient Hebrews.

The discovery of the new First Temple weight and other artifacts at Emek Tzurim National Park simply highlights how absurd it is for Palestinians and their supporters to continue to reject the historical accuracy of a Hebrew/Jewish presence in the land (so far in this sifting project a seal mark that is believed to have been made by King Hezekiah 2,700 years ago was discovered back in 2015; last January another seal impression from the same time was also found, this one engraved with letters that some experts believe refer to the Prophet Isaiah).

Speaking about the new find, Vice President of the City of David Foundation Doron Spielman points out that:

This three thousand-year-old Beka weight, inscribed with ancient Hebrew was likely used in the First Temple, anchoring once again, the deep historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. It is a reminder from our ancestors in First Temple times telling us that the State of Israel of today does not rest only on a 70-year-old United Nations vote, but rather, rests upon a foundation that began more than three millennia ago. Every single day, archaeologists in the City of David are uncovering our past and preserving out future.”

Conclusion

As we’ve highlighted in a number of posts (for a partial list see here), Palestinian officials have embarked on a sustained international campaign at UNESCO and in other international forum to sever Israel’s ties to Jerusalem, Hebron and other ancient Jewish heritage sites, thereby denying the historical legitimacy of Jewish peoplehood and the Jewish nation-state.

This is precisely why large-scale archaeological projects in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, are so important.

These projects offer the public a unique experience when they have the opportunity to sift through the soil and even discover treasures from the past—as recently happened when a volunteer participant, rather than a trained archaeologist, found a rare First Temple artifact.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/straight-from-the-bible-tiny-first-temple-stone-weight-unearthed-in-jerusalem/

[Credit: Times of Israel]

But beyond that, such projects can also compel a clear-eyed assessment about how the prospects for peace are stymied by a relentless Palestinian effort to espouse a mythical thousands-year-old history of their own ‘nation’ in ‘Palestine’ while at the same time denigrating Jewish history and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

[Featured Image via YouTube]

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Recently, Elman was included on the Algemeiner newspaper’s 2018 list of the top 100 people worldwide who are “positively influencing Jewish life.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman