Archaeologists recently discovered the burial site of a female Sarmatian warrior who they believe lived in the 1st century CE. (The Sarmatians, who populated what is now Ukraine and southern Russia during antiquity, are thought to have been the basis for the Amazons of Greek legend.) Among the numerous artifacts was a stone seal engraved in the old version of the Hebrew alphabet, which fell into disuse during the Second Temple period. Jim Davila writes:
As far as I know, this type of seal was only made between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE. . . . It is in one of the northwest Semitic languages, but I don’t know enough about the paleography of this period to identify whether it is Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Ammonite, Edomite, or Moabite. . . .
The letters are inscribed backwards on the seal so that the mirror-image imprint it leaves will read in the right direction. This is normal for such objects. . . . The seal reads לאלישב (l’lyšb), “belonging to Elyashiv.” Elyashiv (Eliashib) is attested as a man’s name in the Hebrew Bible in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and on at least a couple of 7th-century BCE Hebrew seals. I can’t find it in any of the other languages, but I haven’t looked comprehensively and some of them may well have used it, too.
The big question is, what was this turn-of-the-era Sarmatian woman in Russia doing with a Northwest Semitic seal from four to eight centuries before her time? . . . [I]t could have been a family heirloom. It certainly raises other questions about trade between Eastern Europe and the Middle East from the late Iron Age to the Hellenistic period. Assuming this report is accurate in its particulars, this is an extraordinary discovery.
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