A rare artefact dating back to the period of biblical kings David and Solomon has been unearthed for the first time from the soil of Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
The 3,000-year-old seal, which is made of limestone and carved with drawings of some animals, was found by an 11-year old Russian boy who was among the 170,000 volunteers recruited for the Sifting Project of the Temple Mount to carefully search through the excavated earth and look for artefacts, the Christian News reported.
"The seal is the first of its kind to be found in Jerusalem," Gabriel Barkay, a co-founder and a director of the project said. "The dating of the seal corresponds to the historical period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, as well as the construction of the Temple and the royal official compound by his son, King Solomon.''
"What makes this discovery particularly significant is that it originated from upon the Temple Mount itself," Barkay said.
Since 2004, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has reportedly combed through tons of soil that was illegally removed by the Islamic Wafq from the Temple Mount in 1999 as it was building a mosque. Thousands of artefacts have been unearthed by volunteers and the finds from the project were preserved for processing and scientific analysis.
The small, animal inscribed limestone item that is believed to have been used for sealing documents was unearthed late last month, but archaeologists only recently deciphered it.
The seal confirms the Bible's historical descriptions of King David, King Solomon, and the Temple, the project director said.
"Recent finds from other excavations, including the Ophel (south of the Temple Mount), the City of David, as well as those from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, weaken the minimalists' theories and indicate that the descriptions found within the biblical text relating to expansion of Jerusalem may, in fact, be authentic,'' he added.
In the project's website, it said: "Since the Temple Mount has never been excavated, the ancient artefacts retrieved in the Sifting Project provide valuable and previously inaccessible information. The many categories of finds are among the largest and most varied ever found in Jerusalem."
The report said that additional discoveries are expected as the more than half a million finds from the soils Temple Mount are being processed and analysed.