Why did a 2,000 year old artifact wind up at a dental clinic?
Especially in time for Yom Kippur: the gold bell from the Second Temple Period discovered at the City of David aroused the curiosity of researchers who decided to test its contents in a surprising way.
In the excavation conducted by the Antiquities Authority about a decade ago in the foundations of the Western Wall, north of the City of David, a small bell made of pure gold was discovered. “When I held the small find in my hand, I heard it rustling,” said the archaeologist Eli Shukrun who led the excavation. “I knew what it looked like on the outside, but I also wanted to know what it looked like on the inside, so I took it to the dentist for an x-ray.”
According to Shukrun, this is one of the most special finds discovered to date in the City of David excavations. When the results of the x-ray – revealed here for the first time – were received, the researchers were in for a surprise: hidden inside the find was a clapper that was the source of the sound the archaeologist heard.
In the book of Exodus, chapter 28, the high priest’s robe is described: “…and golden bells in the midst of them all around.” This verse is a source of dispute among biblical commentators regarding the meaning of the word “in them”. According to Rashi’s method, the bells hung next to the pomegranates: a bell next to a pomegranate, a bell next to a pomegranate on the hem of the high priest’s tunic. According to the Ramban, it was about bells that were inside the pomegranates themselves: a bell inside a pomegranate.
“Who would bother to do something like this? To close a clapper that rattles inside a pomegranate?”, Dr. Yossi Volnerman, the dentist whose clinic the photographs were taken in, wonders. “Thanks to the x-rays, we realized that we are probably holding one of the 72 bells that hung on the hem of the high priest’s tunic,” Shukrun says excitedly.
According to him, “Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies. Therefore, it can be said that this is the only find we have today that was probably right inside the Holy of Holies. After over 1,000 years, the dispute between the Bible’s interpreters has been resolved.”
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