JERUSALEM (JTA) — The first and oldest ancient artifact providing tangible evidence of the existence of the city of Bethlehem was discovered during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem.
A clay seal, called a bulla, was discovered in soil near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem inside the City of David archaeological park. The bulla, measuring about 1.5 cm, included three lines of ancient Hebrew words including the words Beit Lechem, which is Bethlehem.
"This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” according to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The bulla was likely affixed to a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in the eighth or seventh century B.C., according to Shukron.
Bethlehem is mentioned in the Bible as the place where the foremother Rachel was buried. It was also the site of King David’s anointing.