Archaeologists believe they have discovered the first ever depiction of a biblical plant engraved on an ancient amethyst stone near Israel’s City of David. This biblical plant is known as the Balm of Gilead (also called Bosem, and Balsam).
The stone was found in a drainage ditch that is located next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall when archaeologists and volunteers were digging through it at the Emek Tzurim National Park. It dates back to the time of the Second Temple around 2,000 years ago.
Eli Shukron, who is a former archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, described the location where the stone was discovered, “Jerusalem’s primary drainage channel was built under the pilgrimage road. The pilgrimage road started from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David and went up to the Temple on the Temple Mount of the Second Temple period. Apparently, this ring with the seal fell into the drainage ditch 2,000 years ago.”
Shukron went on to explain the incredible stone which measures 10 millimeters in length by 5 millimeters in width, “It is a stone seal made of semi-precious amethyst stone with an engraving of a dove and a branch of a tree with fruit on the branch.” “Once we found the seal with the branch and the fruit, we hypothesized that it was the biblical persimmon fruit plant as mentioned in the Bible and in the sources of the Second Temple period and the Byzantine period.” “What was surprising was that the branch is a branch with fruits that are not recognized from other seals from that period.” The tree and the dove represent success and good fortune.
Ancient Hebrew farmers were the only people in the world who were known to have cultivated the Balm of Gilead for approximately a thousand years. It was used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes during that time as well as an expensive ingredient in Temple incense as stated by Guy Ehrlich who has been attempting to bring back biblical agriculture by growing the plant, “This is the same persimmon that is identified with the biblical persimmon. It is the persimmon that served as the first of the incense ingredients of the Temple and as the anointing oil of the kings and priests.” He added that the stone is “amazing” and that “Someone took a branch of the Balm of Gilead and drew it on the stone. It does not remind me of any other plant I know.”