More than a hundred seals engraved on ceramics dating from 2,700 years ago were unveiled this week in Jerusalem, shedding new light on the former Israelite kingdom of Judea and in particular the organization of tax collection , according to archaeologists.

A few kilometers from the Old City of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (AIA) discovered the underground remains of a complex whose foundations are still visible. At this site near the U.S. Embassy, ​​over 120 ceramic jug handles, marked with the seal “To the king” in Hebrew, have been found. They date from the kingdom of Judea, founded in 940 before our era and having disappeared with the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in -586.

The jugs presumably contained olive oil and wine and were collected from the people on behalf of the King of Judea as taxes, said Neria Sapir, an AIA official who considers the discovery of seals. as one of the most important of its kind in Israel. In view of the size of the remains discovered, the proximity to the Old City of Jerusalem and the number of ceramics found, the archaeologists concluded that the site must have been the seat of the “Public Treasury” of the time.

Judea, nerve center

Once collected, the containers were partially delivered to the rulers of the Assyrian Empire, of which the Kingdom of Judea was a part. Others were certainly amassed by the inhabitants of the Judean kingdom in preparation for their revolt against the empire, around 701 BCE, which failed.

On these ceramic jugs, other stamps have been found and seem to refer to people who were probably figures of the old kingdom, officials or wealthy people. For the archaeologists in charge of the excavations, all this indicates that the place was a nerve center of Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

But a question remains obscure in their eyes: why did you choose, to establish a tax collection center, this place, certainly located near the capital of the kingdom and fields of olive trees and vines, but on steep and rocky terrain? ? It’s a mystery, admits Sapir, who hopes to find the answer as the excavations progress.