The First Written Evidence Confirming Jerusalem Temple Ritual Practices

Photo by: Vladimir Naykhin

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered the first archeological find to confirm written testimony of the ritual practices at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  An Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeological survey at the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount yielded a tiny tin artifact, the size of a button, inscribed with the Aramaic words: “Daka Le’Ya,” which the excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, explain means “pure for God.”

Researchers believe the artifact, dated to the first century, towards the end of the Second Temple period, is a seal similar to those described in the Mishnah. If they are correct, this is the first time physical evidence of the temple ritual was found to corroborate the written record.  The team believes the tiny seal was put on objects designated to be used in the temple, and thus had to be ceremonially pure.

A first century artifact is quite interesting.  Let’s hope for higher resolution photos soon.

UPDATE:  Joseph Lauer provides a link for hi res photos.  Thanks Joseph!

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8 thoughts on “The First Written Evidence Confirming Jerusalem Temple Ritual Practices

  1. Robert Deutsch 25 Dec 2011 at 3:57 pm

    “The team believes the tiny seal was put on objects designated to be used in the temple, and thus had to be ceremonially pure”

    Very interesting BUT the interpretations has to be different:
    The seal impression (the bullae) has two finger prints on the back and there is no evidence that it served to seal or to be attached to an artifact.

    In the Mishna (Kedoshim, Tamid 3:3) is mentioned the “chamber of the seals” which was in the temple. There the seals were kept, whose impressions on bullae served as evidence of the payment for sacrifice.

    The purchase of “seals” which are probably Bullae, is also mentioned in the Mishna:
    “Who wishes to get libations, goes to Yohanan who is over the seals, hands him over coins and receives a seal. He goes to Ahiya who is over the libations, hands him over a seal and receives libations. At evening they meet, and Ahiya presents the seal and exchanges them for coins”. (Moed, Shekalim 5:4).

    Therefore the bulla discovered by Shukrun and Reich is in fact a receipt, or the means of payment which was used to buy offerings.

    Robert Deutsch

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  2. Jack Kilmon 25 Dec 2011 at 6:47 pm

    My first consideration when I read about the seal was that it was in Aramaic, the common language, and not Hebrew, the sacred language. This indicated that the impression was to be read by people who were literate (about 3-5%) but not temple priests. I wonder if the seal was used on bread before baking.

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  3. Gabe Moskovitz 25 Dec 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Hello Robert,
    There were many things that were donated by the populace or purchased by the Temple Authorities that were used in the sacrificial rites including flour, oil, wine, spices to name a few. These are items that are susceptibile to acquire Tumah, impurity, and therefore there must have been some mechanism to distinguish between pure and impure items. Impure items could have been accepted for Bedek Habayit by the Temple and then resold with the monies received used to buy whatever the Temple needed. Only pure items were worthy of being offered in the sacrificial rite. Your theory regarding this bulla has basis but I would have thought that such a “receipt” would indicate the item like wine or oil. This bulla is non-specific, not naming the item, and as such, might be better ascribed as a “Teudas Tahara” (my term). In any case, I am glad to see that there are some archaeologists that study the Mishna. Kol Hakavod!
    By the way, I tried sending you Email regarding an item I bought on a recent trip to Israel but the Emails were intercepted by your Email management system. How can I write to you?
    Gabe Moskovitz

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  4. jpvdgiessen 26 Dec 2011 at 11:12 am

    Maybe a strange question but I read on the picture of the seal “daka” and doesn’t that mean “to crush, to break in pieces” instead of “pure”?

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    • Gabe Moskovitz 27 Dec 2011 at 9:45 am

      You are correct. Look in Marcus Jastrow Aramaic Dictionary. You will see both meanings, crushed and pure.

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  5. Jack Kilmon 26 Dec 2011 at 6:38 pm

    daky, daka is Judean Aramaic for “made clean.”

    Jack Kilmon

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  6. Robert Deutsch 26 Dec 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Gabe
    The practice to use bullae was probably introduced in order not to buy offerings directly with “impure” coins.

    Robert

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  7. jpvdgiessen 27 Dec 2011 at 11:31 am

    Jack, Gabe, thanks for the information. I only did a lookup in Hebrew dictionaries, while it also could be Aramaic.

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