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AN ISRAELITE DARK GRAY JASPER SCARABOID
AN ISRAELITE DARK GRAY JASPER SCARABOID
Audio: An Israelite Dark Gray Jasper Scaraboid
AN ISRAELITE DARK GRAY JASPER SCARABOID
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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MICHAEL AND JUDY STEINHARDT
AN ISRAELITE DARK GRAY JASPER SCARABOID

CIRCA 8TH-7TH CENTURY B.C.

Details
AN ISRAELITE DARK GRAY JASPER SCARABOID
CIRCA 8TH-7TH CENTURY B.C.
The underside engraved with a sailing ship at the top, depicted with a single mast at the center, the prow and the stern of equal height, with the prow terminating in a horse protome, the gunwale with a row of round shields, a steering oar projecting behind, a Hebrew inscription below in two registers, a double line engraved below each line of text, reading: "Belonging to 'Oniyahu son of Merab," dividing dots between the words; perforated lengthwise; together with a 1985 commemorative Israeli 1 sheqel silver coin
11/16 in. (1.7 cm.) long (2)
Provenance
Said to be found near Samaria.
Private Collection, U.S.
Auction XXX, Numismatic Fine Arts, 8 December 1992, lot 131.
with Rafi Brown, Jerusalem, 1992.
Literature
N. Avigad, "A Hebrew Seal Depicting a Sailing Ship," in Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research, 1982, pp. 59-62.
"The Phoenicians, A Nobleman from Dor," in Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 19, no. 2, March/April 1993, p. 28 (impression only).
C. Grossman, The Collector's Room: Selections from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, New York, 1993, no. 107.
B. Sass, "The Pre-Exilic Hebrew Seals: Iconism vs. Aniconism," in B. Sass and C. Uehlinger, eds., Studies in the Iconography of Northwest Semitic Inscribed Seals, Fribourg and Göttingen, 1993, p. 242.
N. Avigad (revised and completed by B. Sass), Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 77, no. 84.
Exhibited
New York, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1993.
New York, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2000.

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Lot Essay

This seal is extraordinary for both its inscription and its pictorial device. The presence of a realistic rendering of a ship on such a seal is the only one known of its kind. The inclusion of the ship portrayed with such detail has provided a testament of Israelite shipbuilding of the 8th century B.C., in this case, likely a merchant's ship. According to Avigad, p. 60, 1982, op. cit., the Hebrew people of this period were not seafarers, as the Phoenicians and Philistines controlled the waters. Avigad cites Biblical references to show how the northern kingdom of Israel became more experienced in shipbuilding than the more southern Judahites "as a result of the traditional cooperation with the Phoenicians," housing harbors at Dor and Jaffa.
The name of the owner of this seal, 'Oniyahu, has dual meanings, deriving from the word for strength as well as the word for ship, placed together with the personal name of the god of Israel, Yahweh. Therefore it can be interpreted as "Yahweh is my strength" or "Yahweh is my ship/the ship of Yahweh." It is possible that the owner of the seal was from a family of ship-owners, using this pictorial rebus as a heraldic design for the seal. Avigad informs that few other Hebrew seals have been found with emblems relating to the name of the owner, including one with a locust and one with a bird (p. 60, 1982, op. cit.).
The iconography of the ship on this seal was used by the State of Israel in 1985 for a commemorative 1 sheqel silver coin. An example of which is included with this lot (see illustration).

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