Iron Age Weight Found near Temple Mount

The two-shekel weight, dating to the First Temple Period, was an important tool for trade.

Two Shekal Weight

Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority

An Iron Age weight was discovered in the rubble and dirt from the fills beneath Wilson’s Arch by the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The weight is made of limestone and corresponds to “two shekalim,” a measure known to be used in the First Temple period.

The directors of the excavation, Dr. Bark Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman explain, “On the top of the weight is an incised Egyptian symbol resembling a Greek gamma (γ), representing the abbreviated unit ‘shekel.’ Two incised lines indicate the double mass: two shekalim. One of the uses of the shekel weight system during the time of the Temple of Solomon was to collect an annual tax of half a shekel dedicated to the sacrifices and upkeep of the Temple.” The weight–equivalent to 23 grams–was also used to ensure fair trade in the commerce of Jerusalem. “Coins were not yet in use during this period, therefore accuracy of the weights played a significant role in business.”

The importance of weights and measure to conduct trade persisted in Jerusalem from the First Temple Period to the time of the Second Temple. Stone weights provided an important standard. By ensuring the products were accurately measured, they enabled both sides of a transaction to be confident they were getting what they were paying for.

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For centuries, local residents and pilgrims may have conducted an active trade around the Temple Mount. Everything from sacrifices to needed supplies might have been bought and sold. To find this two-shekel weight from the time of the Temple of Solomon, in a dig that dated hundreds of years later, attests to the long-term importance and the vibrant activity of this area. That the weight was so accurate to the known measure of twice a shekel, shows the impressive technology practiced by the residents of Jerusalem in the First Temple Period.

The archaeological excavation is conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman are directors. Read the full press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Ancient Israel Through a Social Scientific Lens by Yigal Levin. In broad scope, our extensive knowledge of the “world of the Bible” was formed in three stages. The 19th century saw the early exploration of the Holy Land and surrounding countries by people like the American Edward Robinson, the Frenchmen Victor Guérin and Charles Clermont-Ganneau and especially the explorers associated with the British Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), founded in 1865, such as C.R. Conder, Charles Warren, H.H. Kitchener, Conrad Schick and Charles Wilson, as well as equivalent French, German and American schools.a Many of these explorers published multivolume works on the geography and history of the Holy Land, including proposals for the identification of many of the major Biblical sites. In the years 1871–1878, the PEF conducted its grand Survey of Western Palestine, and by the end of the 19th century, most of the land west of the Jordan had been surveyed and mapped. The 19th century also saw the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform and the uncovering of the literature and history of the ancient Near East, which gave us both the historical and cultural contexts out of which the Bible emerged.

The Holy Land in Coins by Yaakov Meshorer. What archaeologists find is important. But what they don’t find can be just as important—such as their failure to find coins anywhere in the world before the end of the 7th century B.C. In the Holy Land, coins are not found until about 100 years later. This total absence of coins—despite extensive excavations—is an important datum in itself. It means that Biblical references to specific coins during the First Temple Period (c. 960 B.C.–586 B.C.) are anachronistic. The Biblical historian writing at a later time, when coins were in use, assumed—incorrectly—that they were in use at an earlier period.

Buy Low, Sell High: The Marketplace at Ashkelon by Daniel M. Master and Lawrence E. Stager. Ashkelon—an ancient city whose name comes from the same root as shekel—was indeed a city of buying and selling. If archaeologists were to design a place to examine the economy of the ancient world, they could hardly pick a better site than Ashkelon. At the end of the South Arabian overland spice routes, Ashkelon was a major city with the region’s largest Mediterranean port. Since 1985, archaeologists of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon have carefully sifted through the remains of the ancient city in search of evidence of international trade.

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