“The pomegranate could well be the head of a small scepter or standard,” said Professor Frank Cross of Harvard University and one of the world’s leading Semitic paleographers, when BAR showed him the new pictures of the ivory pomegranate. “Or it could be an ornament from the Temple or a decoration on an altar or a finial on a throne or cultic box. In any case, it is priceless,” Cross added.

There is no doubt as to the object’s authenticity, according to Cross. “If it came from around Jerusalem, you would think it came from the Solomonic Temple.”

Cross would date the object a few years earlier than the Siloam Inscription, which was inscribed in the late eighth century B.C. in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Based on the shape of the letter forms on the pomegranate, the inscription might be as much as 50 years earlier than Siloam, said Cross.