A clay seal impression dating back to the biblical kingdom of Judah (9BC) has been found in Jerusalem. It was discovered during an excavation conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, the university has announced.

Archaeologist believe the impression is of the royal seal of King Hezekiah who, according to the Hebrew Bible, reigned Judah between 6 and 7BC. That puts the oval-shaped seal impression at roughly 2,700 years old. It is also the first seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king ever discovered.

The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script, which translates into English as: "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah," the archaeologists said in a statement, adding that the seal also has an image of a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, inscribed onto it. According to researchers, the motif "proclaimed God's protection, which gave the regime its legitimacy and power."

"Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah's name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbol and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation," excavation director Dr. Eilat Mazar said.

King helped grow Jerusalem economically and diplomatically

Researchers said that the symbols on the seal impression suggest that they were made late in Hezekiah's life when his kingdom's royal symbols changed from the winged scarab to that of the winged sun. Symbols representing life below each wings further indicates that the seal was made after he recovered from a life-threatening illness in his older days, as mentioned in Bible.

"Hezekiah is depicted as both a resourceful and daring king, who centralized power in his hands," archaeologists said of the king. "He successfully maintained the independent standing of the Judean Kingdom and its capital Jerusalem, which he enhanced economically, religiously, and diplomatically."

"The Bible relates of Hezekiah that 'there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him'," the archaeologists said.

The royal seal impression measures 0.9cm by 0.8cm and the impression has been imprinted on 0.3cm thick soft bulla clay measuring 1.3cm by 1.2cm.