A rare Egyptian amulet over 3200 years old has been discovered in Jerusalem in dirt removed from the Temple Mount.

The amulet was discovered by a 12-year-old girl who came with her family to participate in the project to sift the dirt from the Temple Mount in Emek Tzurim National Park.

Neshama Spielman is the child who discovered the amulet while on a family outing at the site.

“I came to sift dirt in Emek Tzurim with my family, and when I was in the middle of sifting, I suddenly saw a rectangular piece of pottery that was different from all the other dirt.” Neshama described the moment she found the amulet. “The rectangle was bisected by a curved line, and I realized that it was something special immediately, but didn’t know what it was. I was excited that I had found something different, and my father immediately went to an archaeologist to check what it was. They took it to be tested at the laboratory, and then they called to tell us that it was an amulet from the time of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” .

It is a small find in the form of a rectangular plate pendant, the lower half of which is broken. Its dimensions: width 21 mm, its preserved height: 16 mm, and its thickness –  about 4 mm. It is made of a brown faience that has lost its glaze. The amulet has an embossed decoration, the result of its design in a mold. At the top of the amulet there is a loop intended for threading through, which made it possible to wear it on the body. There is a cartouche embossment on the face of the amulet – an oval frame, inside which signs in the Egyptian script were found, constituting the name of the reining pharaoh, King of Egypt, Thutmose III, who reigned between 1425 and 1473 BCE. King Thutmose III was one of the most important kings in the New Kingdom of Egypt; he was of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, and is considered the founder of the Egyptian imperial province in Canaan. He conducted 17 campaigns to Israel and Syria, and defeated an alliance of Canaanite kings at Megiddo in a battle in 1457 BCE. He called himself the “conqueror of 1000 cities”.

Two Egyptian hieroglyphic signs and the upper part of a third sign, the components of the king’s name, were preserved inside the cartouche. Above the cartouche a made-up eye is apparent, and to the right of the cartouche are the remains of another Egyptian symbol in the form of a cobra snake whose head and tail have been preserved.

Scarabs (tiny seal-like objects in the shape of a dung beetle) with the name of Thutmose III have previously been discovered in Jerusalem; an example was in a tomb uncovered in the church of Dominus Flevit, on the slope of the Mount of Olives and in excavations of the Ophel, conducted by Dr. Eilat Mazar.

Due to the importance of King Thutmose III in the history of Egypt, objects with his name continued to be produced even during the later periods of his time. Many statues and objects with the name of Thutmose III and of his time are now on display in the comprehensive exhibition “Pharaoh in Canaan” presented at the Israel Museum.

The amulet from the Temple Mount can be reconstructed in its entirety based on an identical amulet that was probably made in the same pattern and was published in 1978 as part of a collection of Egyptian-style items, which may have originated from a tomb near the village of Aara in Nahal Iron (The Iron Stream). Among the items in the collection was another amulet with the name of Seti I, who reigned over Egypt at the end of the 14th century BCE and the beginning of the 13th century BCE. Hence, this is probably the time of the assemblage, as well as the time of the amulet that was discovered through sifting the dirt from the Temple Mount. Research into the amulet from the Temple Mount was conducted by the researcher Baruch Brandel.

It seems that the amulet came to the Temple Mount with fill dirt, which was put in during the Second Temple for the purpose of expanding the Temple Mount. This dirt was apparently brought from the slopes of the Kidron River near the Temple Mount, an area where there were also graves of the Late Bronze Age (1550-1150 BCE). During the sifting of dirt from the Temple Mount, fragments of pottery from this period were discovered, including fragments of pottery imported from Cyprus and Mycenaean Greece, as well as some Egyptian style scarabs.

These findings join other findings from this period that have been discovered in recent years in excavations in the City of David, and findings that may testify to the existence of an Egyptian temple in Jerusalem on the grounds of the Saint Etienne Monastery near the Nablus Gate, dating to the 14th and 13th centuries BCE, immediately prior to the period attributed to the story of the Exodus.

According to Spielman, “It’s special to find something from so long ago! It isn’t something you find every day. I found something in Jerusalem that came from Egypt, and it’s especially exciting now, just before the festival of Passover. Obviously this year, when I read the Haggadah, it will be more significant to me – because the story of The Haggadah will not be just about something far away, that is hard to imagine. It really brings the story of the Haggadah to life for me, and it is very exciting! After all, we are commanded to feel as if we left Egypt, and after making such a great discovery, it helps me to feel it myself. I really recommend that other children go to filter dirt in the Emek Tzurim National Park because there is a chance that they too will be able to find something special like this; it is an experience that will stay with me for life.”

Asaf Avraham, archaeologist, and director of the National Park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem at the Nature and Parks Authority: “Discovering such a find is very symbolic at this time of the year, and it is definitely a greeting from the past. The Nature and Parks Authority invites visitors to come to the Emek Tzurim National Park this Hol Hamoed Passover and combine an archaeological experience with the joy of spring blossoms. All this, facing the magical landscape of Jerusalem.”