(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Pere López)
An Israeli excavation team believes it has found an artifact depicting the Bible's Old Testament story of Samson fighting a lion.
Professor Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman, excavation directors at Tel Aviv University, reported that while recently digging at the Tell Beit Shemesh excavation site, just outside of Jerusalem in the Judaean Hills, they found a small circular stone seal, less than an inch in diameter, which depicts a man with long hair fighting a feline figure.
The seal was found near the River Sorekm, which served as the ancient border between Israelite and Philistine territories, and dates to the 11th century BC, which was biblically during the ruling of the Judges, one of whom was Samson, according to The Telegraph.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli archaeologists speculate that the seal does not represent a biblical Samson, but rather a story of a local hero who fought a lion and eventually morphed into the biblical Samson tale.
The archaeologists chose to focus their study of this area more on the stark differences between the Philistines, who traveled across the Aegean, and the local people, who were first the Canaanites and later the People of Judah.
Reportedly, archaeologists found a plethora of pig bones on the Philistines territory, while they found close to none on the Israeli territory, showing the locals chose not to eat pork to differentiate themselves from the Philistines.
These details, as Bunimovitz told Haaretz, "add a legendary air to the social process in which the two hostile groups honed their separate identities, the way it happens along many borders today."
In early July, archaeologists uncovered what they believed to be Samson's image on a rare mosaic in a synagogue in Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village that lies just a few miles west of Capernaum, in Galilee.
"This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq)," Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina, who is co-conducting the dig, said in a statement.
In the Old Testament story, God bestowed supernatural human strength upon Samson. This strength, which Samson discovered while fighting a lion, was contained in his long hair.
Eventually, Samson was seduced by Delilah, who cut his long hair, robbing him of his strength and resulting in his imprisonment by the Philistines.