Published On: Mon, Apr 25th, 2016

Birdwatcher in Northern Israel Finds Egyptian Seal Nearly 4, 000 Years Old

The seal belonged to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic dynasty dating as far back as the 18th century BCE.

Archiology The scarab found by a birdwatcher in northern Israel.Credit Tel Dor Excavations


An Israeli amateur birdwatcher accidentally discovered an ancient ston scarab, or seal, belonging to a senior Egyptian official of the Thirteenth Pharaonic dynasty dating as far back as the 18th century BCE, researchers at Haifa University announced on Sunday.

The scarab has been found by Alexander Tarnopolsky, who reported the find to the excavation team. The object was apparently exposed after heavy rains pelted the area last winter at Tel Dor on the Carmel coast. According to archaeologists the stone scarab is inscribed in hieroglyphics with the name of an Egyptian and his function – in charge of the royal treasury.

The director of the excavation at Tel Dor, Prof. Ayelet Gilboa of the Archaeology Department at the University of Haifa, said: “The role of the seal’s owner was similar to that of Joseph in Pharaoh’s kingdom after he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.”

According to co-director Prof. Ilan Sharon of Hebrew University, the scarab is rare because it is enclosed in a gold ring, and because it belonged to a senior official.

In January a hiker found a 3, 500 year-old scarab on Mount Karnei Hittin in the Galilee. Hundreds of scarabs have been found so far throughout the country. Most scarabs, Sharon says, were produced commercially and bore the names of kings.

The official’s name has not yet been deciphered but the hieroglyphics for “who is over the treasury” are clear. Among the symbols identified on the scarab is an ankh, symbolizing eternal life, and a djed, symbolizing rebirth and stability.

According to Haifa University, the coastal city of Dor at the foot of Mt. Carmel was a key port city for thousands of years. Until the Romans built Caesarea, Dor was the most important commercial center in area and a trading base for spices, resin, and other commodities that were highly valued by the ancient Egyptians. The city was even mentioned in several ancient Egyptian documents dating back 3500 years as well as in the Bible, in Joshua, Judges and I Kings.

Excavations at the site began in the mid-20th century, revealing the remains of settlements from the Late Bronze Age as well as from the Israelite and Assyrian periods. A palace from the Hellenistic period was also found with a beautiful mosaic, along with monumental remains from the Roman period, including a pair of temples, possibly dedicated to Poseidon, god of the sea.

The excavators suggest two theories explaining how the scarab might have reached Tel Dor.

One is that the seal’s owner arrived there to close a deal, which would have been stamped with his seal, for some of the merchandise that passed through the port that the Egyptians sought – spices or amber for example.

The other is that the scarab reached Dor much later, perhaps even during the Roman period, when there was a great interest on “antiquities” of that type. “Because the scarab had rolled off the mound and was not found in its archaeological context, we will probably never truly know how it got here and the road it took to do so, ” Gilboa said.

The scarab is now in the archaeological museum at neighboring Kibbutz Nahsholim.


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