A unique ornament from King Solomon's biblical temple, a thumb-sized ivory pomegranate inscribed in Hebrew, went on display recently after the Israel Museum acquired it for $550,000.
It was the first artifact to be attributed to Solomon's temple, built 3,000 years ago on a site now in the heart of the walled Old City of Jerusalem.An anonymous donor bought it for the museum from an unknown seller after a mysterious nine-year odyssey from Jerusalem to France, Switzerland and possibly other countries.
"The one relic that surfaced in Jerusalem this week is the only surviving witness to Israel's glorious temple. It makes the legend become a reality," the museum said in a statement.
The exhibition's curator, Michal Dayagi-Mendels, said, "It is a unique discovery of great significance to the history and archaeology of Israel."
The tiny ornament, bearing the ancient Hebrew inscription "Belonging to the Temple of Jehovah, holy to the priests," is believed to have topped a scepter carried by a Temple priest.
It has a flat base, a rounded body and a narrow neck opening into four petals.
Experts say it predates by at least a century the oldest known Hebrew inscription containing the name of God - a silver amulet discovered in a burial cave in Jerusalem last year.
The ornament was authenticated by two leading authorities on biblical art, French epigraphist Professor Andre Lemaire and Israeli archaeologist Professor Nahman Avigad.