Courtesy Oded Lipschits, Ramat Rahel Excavations

A KING’S SEAL. L’melekh, or “(belonging) to the king,” reads the impression stamped on the handle of a storage jar—one of 164 such jar handles recovered at Ramat Raḥel. L’melekh seal impressions are extremely common, with about 2,000 having been found all over ancient Judah. Two different emblems are featured on these impressions: either two wings with a sun disk at center or a four-winged beetle. Scholars were long divided over the dating of the l’melekh impressions; some thought that the two styles came from different times. Thanks to the work of David Ussishkin, who showed that more than 500 such stamped handles were found in a clearly dated stratum at the Judahite site of Lachish, scholars now agree that l’melekh handles all date to the reign of Hezekiah in the late eighth century B.C.E. The l’melekh handles found at Ramat Raḥel thus pinpointed the construction of the palace to that time.

The l’melekh impressions are also stamped with the names of one of four cities in Judah: Hebron, Sokoh, Ziph and the as-yet unidentified mmšt. Author Barkay believes that these cities were Judahite administrative centers spread around the kingdom. Based on the location of the three known cities, Barkay surmises that mmšt would have been in the northern Judean hills near Jerusalem. Moreover, the large number of l’melekh handles found at Ramat Raḥel—more than any other Judahite site other than the important city of Lachish and the capital itself, Jerusalem—leads Barkay to assert that Ramat Raḥel is the best candidate for mmšt.