Have Archaeologists Discovered High Priest’s Bell?

Archaeologists have discovered a rare gold bell during an excavation in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem.
by Elad Benari

Archaeologists have discovered a rare gold bell with a small loop at its end. The finding was made during an archaeological excavation in the City of David National Park (near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem) by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation.

Rare ancient bell. © IsraelNationalNews

The directors of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, said after the finding, “The bell looked as if it was sewn on the garment worn by a man of high authority in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period.

“The bell was exposed in the city’s main drainage channel of that period, between the layers of dirt that had been piled on the floor of the channel,” they continued. “This drainage channel was built and hewn west to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and drained the rainfall in the different parts of the city, through the City of David and the Shiloah Pool to the Kidron valley.”

The excavation area, above the drain, is located in the main street of Jerusalem which rose from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David. In this street an interchange was built through which people entered the Temple Mount. The remains of this interchange are what is known today as Robinson’s Arch. Archaeologists believe that the eminent man walked the streets of Jerusalem in the area of Robinson’s Arch and lost the golden bell which fell off his outfit into the drain beneath the street.

Jewish sources say that the high priests who served in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem used to hang golden bells on the edges of their coats. The book of Exodus (Shemot), for example, contains a description of the coat of Aaron the high priest in which it is said that coat contains, “bells of gold.”

While it is unknown if the bell belonged to one of the high priests, archaeologists have not ruled out the possibility.

The holy garments of the High Priest are described in Exodus 28 and 39. A golden plate with an inscription "Holy to Yahweh" was fixed to a white head covering. A colourful vest, called the ephod, had the breastplate of judgment with 12 precious stones attached to it. On the shoulders were two onyx stones with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel engraved on them. Under the ephod was a robe of blue and a long white undergarment. Attached to the hem of the blue robe were bells and pomegranates. © Leen Ritmeyer


6 thoughts on “Have Archaeologists Discovered High Priest’s Bell?”

  1. What is in a name? The Archeologists claim the bell was found in a “sewer” or a DRAINAGE tunnel….interestingly, it would be quite ironic if it was actually found in what Josephus calls an “aqueduct” ….. Is this bell forensic evidence of a crime scene?
    Josephus wrote…….
    (440) But Manahem and his party fell upon the place whence the soldiers were fled, and slew as many of them as they could catch, before they got up to the towers, and plundered what they left behind them, and set fire to their camp. This was executed on the sixth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].
    9. (441) But on the next day the high priest was caught where he had concealed himself in an aqueduct; he was slain, together with Hezekiah his brother, by the robbers: hereupon the seditious besieged the towers, and kept them guarded, lest any one of the soldiers should escape. (442) …the death of the high priest Ananias,….

    Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996). (Wars 2.17.8-9)

  2. would I be able to purchase pic of priestly garments without watermark, and if so, for how much and how do you want payment?

  3. Gerald Rosenberg, Thank you for the reference to Whiston’s translation. I checked the Greek and found that Ananias the High Priest was found “peri tes Basilikes Aules euripon” (War, II.17.9). This would literally be “around/near the Royal Hall drain(-channel).”
    From the article saying the bell was found near Robinson’s Arch — just below the Western end of the Royal Stoa — this seems to name the spot rather well.
    Why “of the Royal Hall” was left out of the English translation is a mystery indeed. The discovery site of the Bell does seem to indicate the Crime Scene, as you suggest.

  4. The superior Loeb translation refers to this location as the “palace grounds” (War 2.441). This refers to Herod’s Palace near the present Jaffa Gate, see the previous verse, and not to the Royal Stoa. The same phrase is also used in War 5.176, again describing Herod’s Palace.

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