Seal Controversy: From Temech to Shlomit

Introduction

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On January 16, 2008, excavator Eilat Mazar announced that a team she is leading south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had uncovered an inscribed seal that dated to the time of Nehemiah. She read the name on the seal as “Temech” (tav, mem and het) and suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah. Soon after the announcement, however, European scholar Peter van der Veen suggested that Mazar had erred by reading the inscription straight on rather than backward, to account for the fact that a seal creates a mirror image when it used to inscribe a piece of clay. He and other critics suggested that the seal actually bears four letters (shin, lamed, mem and tav) and that the correct reading is “Shlomit,” which itself may be a name mentioned in the Bible. Mazar has now acknowledged that the seal should indeed be read as “Shlomit.” Her comments and those of two of her critics can be found here; we invite other experts to share their viewpoints with us.

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