Egyptian Scarab Seal found at Tel Dor in Northern Israel

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A birdwatcher, Alexander Ternopolsky, has discovered a rare scarab seal belonging to an Egyptian official of considerable rank in the Thirteenth Pharaonic Dynasty (18th-17th centuries BC) at Tel Dor on the Carmel Coast of northern Israel. Announcement of the discovery was made on April 24, 2016, during Passover celebrations across Israel. Ternopolsky handed over the seal to archaeological researchers at the site, after spotting it in an area of the site eroded by winter rains. Prof. Ayelet Gilboa (University of Haifa), who oversees excavations at Tel Dor in collaboration with Prof. Ilan Sharon (Hebrew University in Jerusalem), commented that the seal may have belonged to a viceroy responsible for the Royal Treasury in Egyptian Kingdom and suggested that his office may have been similar to that which Joseph is reported to have held in the book of Genesis.

The identification was made following interpretation of engravings on the seal referring to the owner’s position. The lines, ‘overseer of the treasury,’ and, ‘bearer of the seal,’ were included in this description. The name of the owner is also reported to be visible but has not yet been deciphered. The seal is set in a gold ring which Prof. Gilboa reports is also an indication of the high-ranking position of its owner.

Dor was an important port city from the Late Bronze Age, acting as a hub for commercial maritime exchange. Earliest records of the city are found in Egyptian inscriptions dating to 3500 years ago. The city is also mentioned in Joshua, Judges and 1 Kings in the Bible.

Since the beginning of excavations in the mid-twentieth century, finds have been recovered from the Late Bronze and Iron Ages including Canaanite and Phoenician settlements, and Israelite and Assyrian centers of administration. A city and palace have been uncovered from Hellenistic times, as well as monumental architecture from the Roman period including two temples possibly dedicated to Poseidon (the Roman god of the sea).

Excavators suggest that the seal may have reached Dor during an official visit conducted by its owner in order to confirm a transaction; possibly a purchase of spices or resins – prized commodities for which Dor was a centre of distribution. The seal may also have reached Dor at a later date, during the Roman period, when such antiquities were highly valued.

The discovery came just a few days after a rare Egyptian amulet bearing the name of Thutmose III, pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (1479-1425 BC), was discovered by 12-year-old Neshama Spielman in the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem.