Arnona: Administrative Center Found from time of Jerusalem Kings

120 Seal impressions give insight into both tax collections and food distribution during reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh

Aerial Photo Arnona

Arnona Site. Photo Assaf Peretz, IAA

Jar Handle Arnona

“To the King”: two-winged seal impression on Jar Handle. Photo: Yaniv Berman, IAA

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a major 2,700-year-old governmental administrative center in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. They found a large structure of concentric stone walls, which once stood out in a region of agriculture, olives, grapes, and industrial winemaking facilities. This ancient agricultural region was close to ancient Jerusalem, less than three miles from King Hezekiah’s tunnel, a 1,750 foot long tunnel under Jerusalem, built to ensure access to fresh water in anticipation of Assyrian King Sennacherib’s siege. The accomplishment is noted in the Hebrew Bible (2 Chronicles 32:2-4, and 2 King 20:20). Arnona is quite close to Ramat Rachel, believed by many scholars to be the site of a Judahite royal palace.

Clay figurines, Arnona

Clay figurines of women and animals found at Arnona. Photo: Yaniv Berman, IAA

The excavations at Arnona uncovered 120 jar handles with seal impressions on them, a large number to be found at one site. Some had the names of officials or wealthy citizens from the First Temple period. Others were inscribed, “LMLK” (belonging) to the King, followed by the name of one of four cities of the Judahite Kingdom: Hebron, Ziph, Socho and Mmst. As the directors of the excavations explained in the IAA release, “Evidence shows that at this site, taxes were collected in an orderly manner for agricultural produce such as wine and olive oil.” They also believe that food was being distributed to cover shortages from this site, and surpluses stored for wealth accumulation.

The excavation was conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, was funded by the Israel Land Authority and administrated by the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation. Neria Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari directed the excavations for IAA.

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Will King Hezekiah Be Dislodged from His Tunnel? It is one of the most famous sites in Jerusalem—right up there after the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. And it is also one of the most exciting to visit—Hezekiah’s Tunnel. But is it really his?

Royal Palace, Royal Portrait?: The Tantalizing Possibilities of Ramat Raḥel The first Judahite royal palace ever exposed in an archaeological excavation is bei ng rediscovered. And with this renewed interest come echoes of what is probably one of the bitterest rivalries in the history of Israeli ar chaeology—between Israel’s most illustrious archaeologist, Yigael Yadin of Hebrew University, and his younger colleague Yohanan Aharoni, who bo lted and formed the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University. Ramat Raḥel sits on a mountaintop halfway between ancient Jerusalem and Bethlehem, about 3 miles from each. From the summit, 2,600 feet above sea level, a magnificent landscape unfolds: To the north the visitor sees ancient Jerusalem—the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount, with its gold- covered Dome of the Rock—and large segments of the bustling new city.

Sennacherib’s Siege of Jerusalem: Once or Twice? The Assyrian monarch Sennacherib’s military campaign against King Hezekiah of Judah is one of the best-documented and most discussed events in the history of ancient Israel. The late-eighth-century B.C.E. encounter is reported in both Kings (2 Kings 18:13–19:37) and Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:1–23). It is likely the backdrop for several prophetic teachings (for example, Isaiah 1:4–9, 22:1–14; Micah 1:10–16). In addition, we have a detailed cuneiform account of the campaign in the annals of Sennacherib (his third campaign). We even have a relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh depicting his conquest of Lachish, a visual account complemented by archaeological finds from the site south of Jerusalem.

King Hezekiah’s Seal Revisited Some two years ago, Harvard professor Frank Moore Cross published an article in BAR that described for the first time an extraordinary lump of clay.a Known as a bulla, the clay was impressed with a seal belonging to King Hezekiah, who ruled Judah from c. 727–698 B.C.E. It was Hezekiah who saved Jerusalem from a siege by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib by fortifying and expanding the city’s walls and by building the tunnel that still bears his name to ensure a steady supply of water.b And it was he who instituted a major religious reform in which he sought to centralize worship in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, eliminating the shrines and sacred pillars in outlying areas of the country, by then divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Indeed, as we shall see, Hezekiah even wanted to reunite the country again, as in the days of David and Solomon.

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