JERUSALEM (The Blaze/AP) -- The Israel Antiquities Authority says archeologists digging at a Jerusalem site have found the oldest artifact that bears the inscription of Bethlehem -- a 2,700 years old seal with the name of Jesus' traditional birthplace.
Eli Shukron, the authority's director of excavations, says this is the first time the city's name has appeared on an artifact from this period. According to The Jerusalem Post, this finding provides tangible evidence that the ancient city of Bethlehem existed. The clay seal, or bulla, was found in a Jerusalem dig.
The Post continues, providing more on the discovery and the bulla:
The dramatic discovery was made while sifting soil from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David, in the “Walls around Jerusalem National Park.”
The bulla, measuring 1.5 cm, was discovered bearing the name of the city, written in ancient Hebrew script. The dig is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation.
A bulla would be impressed with the seal of the person who sent the document or object, and its integrity was evidence that no one had viewed or opened the document who unless authorized.
Shukron said on Wednesday the seal bears the ancient Hebrew script used during the period of the first biblical Jewish Temple. He says pottery found nearby dates back to the same period. Shukron also says that the seal was most likely used to stamp tax shipments.
"The bulla we found belongs to the group of 'fiscal' bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE," he explains. "The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat."