A 2,600-year-old seal bearing a woman's name has been found in Israel. The relic depicts a powerful status, which was extremely rare at the time for women, according to researchers.
The circular semi-precious seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, was found during an excavation at a building dating to the First Temple period in the City of David, Jerusalem. The name – Elihana bat Gael – is inscribed on it in ancient Hebrew, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
According to researchers, the black-coloured seal indicates that the woman had a legal status, which allowed her to conduct business and possess property. She was legally and financially independent.
"The owner of the seal was exceptional compared to other women of the First Temple period," a statement by archaeologists said. "Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon."
The seal was used for signing documents and was embossed into a ring probably worn by Elihana herself, whose name is inscribed along with her father's. Researchers stressed that the artefact indicates that Elihana enjoyed exceptionally high social status because of her family, as women in that era generally had an inferior economic position.
"Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small proportion of all the seals that have been discovered to date," Dr Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem said. "Most of the women's seal that are known to us bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband. Here, as in other cases, this might indicate the relatively elevated status of Elihana, which depended on her original family."
"There is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status," researchers added.