The Newsletter of the Megiddo Expedition

Virtual Reality
Temple Complex
In Memoriam
Thutmose III
Faunal Remains
Charms Capture
The 1998 Excavation
In the Footsteps... OI
The Gossip Corner

Himan, a Griffin and an Egyptian ankh

Three bullae (clay lumps used to secure containers or papyri, in our case the former) impressed with the same seal were found in Area H in a context sealed within the debris of a burnt house. The stratum dates to the last major, well-understood phase of the eighth-century Israelite city. Benjamin Sass, a Megiddo Excavation team member who works with such items, has been busy over the last months analyzing, among the many other small finds from Megiddo, these bullae and their place in the larger picture emerging from the ground. 


Eighth-century BCE bulla from the renewed excavations

The best-preserved of these bullae is illustrated here. The impression shows a griffin wearing the Egyptian double crown and kilt and striding towards an ankh sign (or an ankh-shaped stand). A two-winged beetle is depicted below in the exergue. These Egyptianizing royal and solar motifs, common in the art of the period, are often labeled Phoenician, but similar elements in the art of Israel and Aram Damascus permit one to extend the distribution of such Egyptianizing art to much of the southern Levant. 

Mindless delight in decor is not in the spirit of the period; whether the Israelite users of the seal with which the bullae were impressed were aware of the original (i.e., Egyptian) religious-protective meaning of the motifs, gave them local significance or simply regarded them as generally beneficial remains unknown.

Between the two world wars the Chicago expedition to Megiddo unearthed a very similar stamp seal (right), but with a much rarer motif, a locust, in the exergue. A legend in ancient Hebrew letters was added to the originally uninscribed seal. It reads lhmn, ‘belonging to Himan’, a not-so-common personal name. Discovered out of context, the seal was dated to the eighth century by numerous parallels; the archaeological context of the bullae from the renewed excavation clinches this date.

Benjamin Sass
with Jared L. Miller

Eighth-century BCE seal inscribed in Hebrew found by the Chicago expedition [Israel Antiquities Authority 34.1490].