Biblical Archaeology Review 26:1, January/February 2000

First Person: Have You Seen This Seal?

Probably not

By Hershel Shanks

One of the most famous Hebrew seals ever discovered has been lost for 95 years. It is known only from a photograph—and from the myriad replicas (including belt buckles) made from an impression produced before the seal was lost.

It was recovered in March 1904 during the earliest excavation of Megiddo, led by Gottlieb Schumacher, an American-born German engineer whose family had moved to Haifa when he was 12 years old. He lived mostly in Palestine until the First World War, when he moved to Germany. He came back to Palestine in 1924, where he died a year later.

The seal is oval shaped. Scholars describe it as “scaraboid” (scarab-like). Made of precious jasper, it is unusually large—nearly an inch and a half across. It has no perforation through it, so it must have been encased in a ring rather than worn around the neck on a string.

Its iconographic feature is a beautiful roaring lion with a magnificent tail curving high above the animal. Above and below the line on which the king of beasts stands is a clear inscription (in the ancient Hebrew script used before the Babylonian Exile):

µ[bry db[

[Belonging] to Shema‘
servant of Yarob‘oam [=Jeroboam]

A single line encircles the seal.

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