The coin-sized artifact appears to be linked to religious rituals 2,000 years ago.
A rare clay seal found under Jerusalem’s Old City appears to be linked to religious rituals practiced at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago, Israeli archaeologists said Sunday.
The coin-sized seal found near the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall bears two Aramaic words meaning “pure for God.”
Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said it dates from between the 1st century B.C. to 70 A.D. — the year Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt and destroyed the second of the two biblical temples in Jerusalem.
The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem’s history, and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.
Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself — the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.
Archaeologists say the seal was likely used by Temple officials approving an object for ritual use — oil, perhaps, or an animal intended for sacrifice. Materials used by Temple priests had to meet stringent purity guidelines stipulated in detail in the Jewish legal text known as the Mishna, which also mention the use of seals as tokens by pilgrims.
The find, Reich said, is “the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount — the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the Temple itself.”
The site where the seal was found is on the route of a main street that ran through ancient Jerusalem just outside the Temple compound.
Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, a biblical archaeologist not connected to the dig, said the seal was special because it “was found right next to the Temple and is similar to what we see described in the Mishna.”
“It’s nice when we can connect an activity recorded in ancient sources with archaeological finds,” he said.
The seal was found in an excavation run by archaeologists from the government’s Israel Antiquities Authority. The dig is under the auspices of a broader dig nearby known as the City of David, where archaeologists are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.
The City of David dig, located inside the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and funded by a Jewish group affiliated with the settlement movement, is the Holy Land’s highest-profile and most politically controversial excavation.
Scientists said Wednesday they’ve discovered fossils in the southern Utah desert of two new dinosaur species closely related to the Triceratops, including one with 15 horns on its large head.
The discovery of the new plant-eating species — including Kosmoceratops richardsoni, considered the most ornate-headed dinosaur known to man — was reported Wednesday in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, produced by the Public Library of Science.
The other dinosaur, which has five horns and is the larger of the two, was dubbed Utahceratops gettyi.
“It’s not every day that you find two rhino-sized dinosaurs that are different from all the other dinosaurs found in North America,” said Mark Loewen, a Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologist and an author of the paper published in PLoS ONE.
“You would think that we know everything there is to know about the dinosaurs of western North America, but every year we’re finding new things, especially here in Utah,” he said.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been a hotbed for dinosaur species discoveries in the past decade, with more than a dozen new species discovered. While it is a rocky, arid place now, millions of years ago it was similar to a swamp.
The Utahceratops has a large horn over the nose and short eye horns that project to the side rather than upward, similar to a bison. Its skull is about 7 feet long, it stood about 6 feet high and was 18 to 22 feet long. It is believed to have weighed about 3 to 4 tons.
The Kosmoceratops has similar facial features at the Utahceratops, but has 10 horns across the rear margin of its bony frill that point downward and outward. It weighed about 2.5 tons and was about 15 feet long.
The horns on both animals range in length from about 6 inches to 1 foot.
Paleontologists say the discovery shows that horned dinosaurs living on the same continent 76 million years ago evolved differently.
Scientists say that other horned dinosaurs lived on the same ancient continent known as Laramidia in what is now Alberta, Canada.
The numerous horns are believed to have been used to attract mates and intimidate sexual competitors, similar to horns on deer.
“The horns really are probably developed at puberty, because most likely these are signals for mate recognition, competition between males, things like that,” Loewen said. “They’re sexual signals and really that’s how we think this group of dinosaurs divided.”