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Khirbet Summeily Yields 10th-Century B.C. Clay Seals

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

(Megan Bean, University of Wisconsin/Nathaniel Greene)STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI—Six clay seals unearthed at Khirbet Summeily, an early Iron Age site in southern Israel, suggest that there was more political complexity in the region at that time than had been previously thought. “These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the tenth century [B.C.], making this discovery unique,” said Jimmy Hardin of Mississippi State University and co-director of the Hesi Regional Project. The bullae came from sealed written documents, at a site that had been thought to be a rural farmstead in a border area. “You have either political or administrative activities going on at a level well beyond those typical of a rural farmstead,” he explained. Two of the bullae have complete seal impressions, two have partial seal impressions, and two others are blank. Two of the bullae were blackened by fire, and one of them has a well-preserved hole where the string used to seal the document passed through the clay. “Generations of scholarship have suggested [that the people of Khirbet Summeily were] farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region. It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation,” commented Jeff Blakely of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-director of the Hesi Regional Project. The tenth century B.C. is often referred to as the time of the biblical kings David and Solomon. To read about unusual artifacts dating to the same period that were unearthed in Israel, see "Artifact: Iron Age Figurines."

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