Seal Controversy: From Temech to Shlomit
The reading of personal seals is as clear as the moon in the sky.
In general, a seal’s letters are incised retrograde: once the seal is impressed in soft clay it will leave a straight mirror-image, right-to-left inscription (all West-Semitic scripts are written from right-to-left).
Mazar’s seal is no different. If you look at the seal, you will see four—not three—very clear mirror-image letters that run, from left-to-right, SLMT, “Shlomit.”
This is based on two diagnostic letters which have an inclination to the left, the letters lamed and mem. The other two letters, the shin and the taw, are vertical and not indicative.
The first mistake made by Mazar was to read it from right-to-left as one would read a seal impression (a bulla).
The second mistake is the misreading of the two letters shin and lamed as one single letter het.
So she reads SL as H—and reads it incorrectly from right-to-left, as HMT: “Temech.” She then elaborates on the connection of this name to Biblical figures.
This is a very poor interpretation and could have been avoided by showing it to an epigrapher.
An error such as this is fine as a “working hypothesis,” but Mazar should listen to her colleagues and change her reading.
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