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November 30, 2022 1:58 pm
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3,000-Year-Old Seal Found on School Trip Near Tel Aviv

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A 3000-year-old scarab found in Azor, Israel depicting a seated figure (right) and a standing figure with an elevated arm (left), potentially showing the imparting of authority. Photo: Gilad Stern, Israel Antiquities Authority

A 3,000-year-old seal was unearthed during a school field trip in central Israel, the country’s antiquity authority announced Wednesday.

Crafted in the shape of a dung beetle, the artifact was found in Azor, some four miles southeast of Tel Aviv.

“We were wandering around, when I saw something that looked like a small toy on the ground,” recounted Gilad Stern of the Israel Antiquity Authority Educational Center, who led the eighth-grade field trip.

He felt compelled to pick it up, and to his astonishment, found “the dream of every amateur archaeologist” — a scarab seal “with a clearly inscribed scene,” Stern said in a statement released by the IAA. “The pupils were really excited!”

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Dr. Amir Golani, a Bronze Age period specialist with the IAA, said such an artifact was “used as a seal and was a symbol of power and status. It may have been placed on a necklace or a ring.”

It is unclear how the seal — made of a silicate material and a blue-green glaze — came to be left where it was. “It may have dropped from the hands of an important and figure of authority who passed through the area, or it may have been deliberately buried in the ground along with other objects, and after thousands of years it came to the surface,” said Golani.

The lower part of the seal depicts two figures — one seated, and another standing with a raised arm. The latter features an elongated head, appearing to represent a pharaoh’s crown.

“It is possible that we can see here a snapshot of a scene wherein the Egyptian Pharaoh is conferring authority to a local Canaanite subject,” the IAA stated.

This depiction “basically reflects the geopolitical reality that prevailed in the land of Canaan during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1000 BCE), when the local Canaanite rulers lived (and sometimes rebelled) under Egyptian political and cultural hegemony,” explained Golani. “It is very possible that the seal is indeed from the Late Bronze Age, when the local Canaanites were ruled by the Egyptian Empire.”

While popular in ancient Egypt, scarab seals have also been found far beyond, with hundreds discovered in the Land of Israel. Some were Egyptian-made imports, and many others were created by local artisans in Israel. Based on the level of workmanship displayed, the unearthed seal may be a locally-made product, the IAA said.

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