An ancient amulet crafted from lead featuring ancient Hebrew text was discovered in the rubble of excavations that took place at the archeological site on Mount Ebal in the Samaria region, where the Bible’s Joshua bin Nun built his altar. In the Bible, it is written that Joshua, who replaced Moses as the new leader to the Israelites and led the conquest of Canaan, erected an altar on Mount Ebal, as instructed by his predecessor, Moses following the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. At that time Yehoshua built a mizbayach to Hashem, the God of Yisrael, on Har Eival, (Joshua 8:30)
The charm is inscribed with the Hebrew letter Alef and an image resembling a lotus flower. Haifa University archaeologist Adam Zertal, who died in 2015, identified the remnants of an altar discovered at the site as the one written about in the Bible, where Joshua divided the land among the twelve tribes. Zertal’s research demonstrated that the area was a unique ritual site for sacrificial offerings. The dating of the altar to when the Israelites’ entered the land, the commonality between the excavated complex and the altar described in the Book of Joshua, and the discovery of exclusively kosher animal bones that were discovered at the site, compelled the archaeologists to conclude that the structure is indeed the altar of Joshua that he erected on Mount Ebal.
Samaria residents that were restoring one of the walls of Joshua’s altar that was destroyed by the Palestinian Authority, said that “following the excavation, we left many piles of dirt that we unearthed, and since the piles might contain valuable finds, a group of Professor Zertal’s associates transported them to a secure location where they can be inspected. Many years later, the technology for properly sifting the dirt was developed.”
One of the discoveries was the small amulet, which measured at just 2×2 centimeters. The amulet is “opaque like an oyster,” hinting that it once contained something inside. An official at the Israel Antiquities Authority attempted to open it up but gave up once it began crumbling at the edges. The researchers then located a lab in the Czech Republic that specializes in taking sophisticated photographs to reconstruct a three-dimensional model. The results demonstrated several grooves in the amulet, one of them resembles a the head of a bull, known in ancient Biblical times as an “Alef,” the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. “Another image discovered on the amulet resembles that of a lotus flower, a significant image in ancient Egypt,” Konigsberg said.
Konigsberg also said that a thorough examination of the plasterboards found inside of the altar will take place in the coming days. He added that during Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, plaster was used in places of worship exclusively. “It would be fascinating to examine the boards with technologies that were not yet available to us during the excavations, including sophisticated infrared devices, which could reveal text that is touched on in the Bible regarding Joshua’s altar,” Konigsberg explained. Joshua’s altar is the only currently known remains from the Israelite period during the conquest of Canaan. Professor Zertal believes that this was the same altar of the covenant ceremony discussed in the Book of Joshua happened.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan sees the find as more proof of the Bible’s accuracy saying that the discovery “proves once again the deep and inseparable connection between the Jewish people and Samaria and the Land of Israel as a whole.”