Jerusalem, Feb 6 : A leading Israeli archaeologist has revealed that she has revised her reading of an inscription on an ancient seal discovered in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, following severe criticism of the original interpretation of the name on the seal, by various scholars around the world.
The 2,500 year-old black stone seal was uncovered last month among stratified layers of debris in the ongoing excavation just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.
Mazar had originally read the name on the seal as "Temech," and pointed out that it was owned by the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.
However, after the find was first reported in The Jerusalem Post, various epigraphers around the world said Mazar had made a blunder by reading the inscription on the seal straight on (from right to left) rather than backwards (from left to right), as a result of the fact that a seal creates a mirror image when used to inscribe a piece of clay.
The critics, including the European scholar Peter van der Veen, as well as the epigrapher Ryan Byrne, co-director of the Tel Dan excavations, suggested in Internet blogs that the correct reading of the seal is in fact "Shlomit," also a biblical name.
Mazar said that she accepted the reading of "Shlomit" on the ancient seal, and added that she was pleased with the scholarly research on the issue.
"We are involved in research, not in proving our own opinions," The Jerusalem Post quoted her, as saying.
She noted that the name Shlomit was well-known in the period from which the seal dated, and that other contemporary seals had been found that bore names of women who held official status in the administration.
The seal, which portrays a common and popular cultic scene, was bought in Babylon and dates to 538-445 BCE, Mazar said.
On the contrary, Byrne suggested that a date in the late seventh or early sixth century was more credible; noting that scene was characteristic of the Iron Age Levant and that there was no reason to surmise the seal had been made in Babylon.
The 2.1 X 1.8 cm elliptical seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense alter with their hands raised in a position of worship.
A crescent moon, the symbol of the chief Babylonian god Sin, appears on the top of the altar, Mazar said.