New discovery: A 3000 year old “Beka” weight

A “Beka” weight from the First Temple period was discovered in the Emek Tzurim sifting project in Jerusalem

The weight, which was found in the archaeological soil originating from the Western Wall foundations, north of the City of David, features an inscription in ancient Hebrew script and was used to weigh the half-shekel brought to the Temple

“Beka” weight City of David Archives – Photo: Eliyahu Yanai

 

Salutations from the Temple period: During the sifting of archaeological

soil taking place in the Emek Tzurim National Park, under the auspices of the Ir David Foundation, a particularly surprising artifact was found: a tiny stone weight engraved with ancient Hebrew letters spelling Beka.

 

The weight, dated to the First Temple period, was found in archaeological soil originating from the Western Wall foundations, north of the City of David, at the foot of Robinson’s Arch. The soil was transferred from the excavation area to the sifting site in the Emek Tzurim National Park for careful sorting and during the sifting process the weight was uncovered.

The Beka weight was used to weigh the half-shekel donation brought by the Jewish people for the maintenance of the Temple and the census, and it is mentioned in the Bible:

“One beka per head; [that is,] half a shekel, according to the holy shekel, for each one who goes through the counting, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred three thousand, five hundred and fifty [people]”

(Exodus 38:26)

 

“Beka” weight City of David Archives – Photo: Eliyahu Yanai

Archaeologist Eli Shukron, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explains that “When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of twenty years and up was required to bring to the Temple.”

 

It should be noted that the biblical shekel weighed 11.33 grams. According to Shukron, “Beka weights from the First Temple period are rare; however this weight is even rarer, because the inscription on it is written in mirror script and the letters are engraved from left to right instead of right to left. It can therefore be concluded that the artist who engraved the inscription on the weight specialized in engraving seals, since seals were always written in mirror script so that once stamped the inscription would appear in regular legible script. “Apparently, the seal craftsman got confused when he engraved the inscription on the weight and mistakenly used mirror script as he was used to doing. From this mistake we can learn about the general rule: The artists who engraved weights during the First Temple period were the same artists who specialized in creating seals. The Bible, the artifact found close to Solomon’s Temple, north of the City of David, the Temple foundations – everything is connected.”

 

Article by: City of David National Park

 

 

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