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Eilat Mazar

City of David

The bulla mentioning Yehochal, dated to the end of the First Temple period.

Excavations on top of the ridge of the City of David in Jerusalem were conducted in 2005 by Eilat Mazar, under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and on behalf of the Shalem Center. The excavation area, measuring 30 x 10m, was opened where evidence indicated the presence of a large public building from the Iron Age, a few meters to the northwest of the stepped stone structure found by Y. Shilo in his Area G, and just above the scarp where Kathleen Kenyon found a beautiful Proto-Aeolic capital and a pile of ashlar rubble. The prevailing opinion, however, was that no significant ruins remained to be discovered in that area. Furthermore, in addition to Kenyon's excavations in the 1960s, most of the excavation area had already been explored by R.A.S. Macalister and J. G. Duncan in their excavations in 1923-25. Fortunately, Macalister and Duncan kept most walls in place, and as it turns out, left untouched ancient remains that reached a significant depth.

The latest remains uncovered at the site include a single square room with a white mosaic floor, dated to the Early Islamic period (the seventh century CE). This room belongs to a multi-roomed peristyle house, a large part of which was uncovered by Macalister and Duncan. It was called by them the House of Eusebius, based on the name found stamped on one of the drain pipes of the house. The house was built directly above a Second Temple period residence, of which only the water installations of the basement floor remained.

The excavation area, with the remains of the monumental Iron Age structure, looking east.

Under these remains were discovered the walls of a monumental structure occupying the entire excavation area and extending beyond its limits in all directions. The walls were preserved up to 2.5m high and vary in width from 2.0-2.6m. The earth layer under the structure contained sherds dated up to the 12th-11th centuries BCE but no architectural remains; it was deposited on a leveled bedrock surface that perhaps served as an open cult site outside of the Canaanite city limits. Within the structure, later additions were found, to which complete (not intact) vessels of the 10th-9th centuries BCE were associated, apparently pushed aside with the construction of the new additions. In light of this data, the construction date of the structure can be placed within the 10th century BCE.

The characteristics and location of the structure attest not only to a new royal construction initiative, but also to a very high level of architectural skill and ability. The date of the building supports the supposition that it is the palace built by the Phoenicians for King David (2 Samuel 5:11-12). Such a construction at this time also indicates that Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE was of utmost importance, with great economic and political standing.

Finds from the northeastern part of the revealed structure testify that it was used to the end of the First Temple period (586 BCE). A special find dated to this time is a bulla, a seal impression on hardened clay used for sealing public documents. It is 1cm in diameter, and contains three lines of a Hebrew script characteristic of the end of the First Temple period. The inscription mentions Yehochal, son of Shelemyahu, son of Shuvi. A Yehochal who served as a minister in Zedekiah's kingdom is referred to in Jeremiah 37:3 and 38:1. The bulla is thus evidence of the royal use of the structure until the end of the First Temple period.