A rare amulet, more than 3,200 years old, bearing the name of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III, Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty who reigned from 1479 – 1425 BCE, was discovered at the Temple Mount Sifting Project located in Jerusalem’s Tzurim Valley National Park in soil discarded from the Temple Mount, and was only recently deciphered by archeologists. The project is conducted under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, with the support of the City of David Foundation and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Thutmose III was one of the most important pharaohs in Egypt’s New Kingdom and is credited with establishing the Egyptian imperial province in Canaan, conducting 17 military campaigns to Canaan and Syria and defeating a coalition of Canaanite kings at the city of Megiddo in 1457 BCE,” stated Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “Thutmose III referred to himself as ‘the one who has subdued a thousand cities,’ and it is known that for more than 300 years, during the Late Bronze Age, Canaan and the city-state of Jerusalem were under Egyptian dominion, likely explaining the presence of this amulet in Jerusalem.”
The amulet was discovered by Neshama Spielman, a twelve year-old girl from Jerusalem who came with her family to participate in the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “While I was sifting, I came across a piece of pottery that was different from others I had seen, and I immediately thought that maybe I had found something special,” said Spielman. “It’s amazing to find something thousands of years old from ancient Egypt all the way here in Jerusalem! Celebrating Passover this year is going to be extra meaningful to me.”
The Passover festival, commemorating the Biblical account of the ancient Israelites Exodus from Egypt, will be celebrated later this week.
Since the project’s inception in 2004, more than 170,000 volunteers from Israel and around the world have taken part in the sifting, representing an unprecedented phenomenon in the realm of archaeological research.
The small amulet is in the shape of a pendant, missing its bottom part, measures 21 mm wide, 4 mm thick and its preserved length is 16 mm. A loop on top allowed it to be strung and hung on the neck. The raised decoration displays a cartouche — an oval frame surrounding Egyptian hieroglyphics bearing the name of the Egyptian ruler. Above the oval framing is the symbol of an eye, and to its right are remnants of yet another hieroglyphic symbol depicting a cobra of which parts of the head and tail are preserved.
While Egyptian scarabs bearing the name of Thutmose III have previously been discovered in Jerusalem, this represents the first time his name has been found in Jerusalem adorning an amulet. “Objects bearing the name of Thutmose III continued to be produced in Egypt long after the time of his reign, reflecting the significance and lasting impression of this king,” said Barkay.
The amulet can be reconstructed based upon the discovery of an identical pendant found in Nahal Iron in northern Israel, announced in 1978,” said Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “Along with that pendant, which also bore the name of Thutmose III, was another amulet bearing the name of King Seti I, an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the late 14th – early 13th centuries BCE. This seems to indicate that both pendants date to the same time period, namely the late 14th – early 13th century BCE.”
The research of the amulet was conducted by Israel Antiquities Authority Egyptologist Baruch Brandl.
“A discovery such as this is particularly symbolic at this time of year, with the Passover festival just a few days away, and represents greetings from the ancient past,” said Assaf Avraham, archeologist and director of the Jerusalem Walls National Park from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project, under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and with the support of the City of David Foundation and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, was initiated in response to the illegal removal of tons of earth from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf in 1999 without any archaeological supervision.
“Since the Temple Mount has never been excavated, the ancient artifacts retrieved in the Sifting Project provide valuable and previously inaccessible information. The many categories of finds are among the largest and most varied ever found in Jerusalem. Even though they have been extracted from their archaeological context, most of these artifacts can be identified and dated by comparing them with those found at other sites,” said Dvira.
In addition to the ongoing sifting of the earth illegally removed from the Temple Mount by the Muslim Waqf, The Temple Mount Sifting Project has focused its efforts on the enormous tasks of processing and studying the finds and preparing them for scientific publication. Presently, more than half a million finds are still waiting to be processed and analyzed in their laboratory.