The Temple Mount Sifting Project, Jerusalem, announced yesterday the discovery of a clay bulla bearing the name of the biblical city of Gibeon. The name of Gibeon (GB’N) occurs with LMLK (for the king).
Gabriel Barkay summarizes his report of this discovery.
A small fragment of a clay bulla was discovered in the wet sifting carried out at Tzurim Valley National Park, the site of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. The bulla carries an Ancient Hebrew inscription: “[g]b’n/lmlk“, i.e. “Gibeon, for the King”. The bulla originates from the eastern slope of the Temple Mount, descending into the Kidron Valley. The bulla belongs to a group of bullae which were called by N. Avigad “Fiscal Bullae”.
Presently we know more than 50 bullae of this type. They comprise two groups, one with names of cities in the kingdom of Judah, and the other with names of royal officials. All the fiscal bullae known until now come from the antiquities market, and our bulla is the first one to come from a controlled archaeological project. This bulla enables us to fully illuminate and discuss the entire phenomenon of the fiscal bullae.
Barkay says the known bullae,
include names of 19 different cities of Judah, and dates of the reign of one of the Judean kings, usually in hieratic numerals, as well as the particle “lmlk“, “for the king”.
The fiscal bullae represent a taxation system from the different Judean cities, based on yearly taxes, which probably replaced the previous one, reflected in the royal Judean jars and their seal impressions, from the time of King Hezekiah.
The discovery of the fiscal bulla with the name of Gibeon from the slope of the Temple Mount, authenticates all the other fiscal bullae, and enables us to study a variety of subjects connected to the history of Judah in the 7th century BCE.
Two brief reports on the Project may be read here.
Name of Gibeon is not new. This is not the first time the name of Gibeon has been discovered from the past. During the excavations conducted by James Pritchard for the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific between 1956 and 1962, over 25 inscription were found with the name Gibeon. In fact, this is how Pritchard first knew with certainy that the Arab town El Jib was to be identified as Gibeon.
Some of the inscribed jar handles discovered by Pritchard’s excavation at El Jib are displayed at the University of Pennsylvania Archaeological Museum in Philadelphia.
Gibeon is an important town in Biblical history. The first Biblical reference is in Joshua 9.
Recently I have been scanning a few slides I made at Gibeon in 1970 and 1976. Hopefully I will be able to provide some comparison photos for you to see the vast difference between then and now.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project began after it was discovered that the Moslems in control of the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock is located, were dumping debris from work they were doing on the Temple Mount. This project has been underway for more than two years. A temporary building has been erected in Tzurim Valley National Park for the sifting project.
The photo below was made from Mount Scopus. Here we see the temporary building of the Temple Mount Sifting Project in the foreground. The slope of the Mount of Olives is on the left (east). The Kidron Valley begins to the right of the buildings in the center of the photo and continues south under the eastern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem which you can see clearly in this photo. Click on the photo for a larger image.
The next photo is a closeup of the building used by The Temple Mount Sifting Project. Some wonderful pieces have been discovered from the first temple period, as well as other periods, as a result of the work done here.
Gordon Franz has an interesting article by Stephanie Hernandez about participation in the TMSP on his Life and Land site here.
Perhaps in the days to come we will be favored with a photo of the new bulla with the name of Gibeon on it. In the mean time, see how many times you can find the word Gibeon or Gibeonite/s in the Bible.