STARKVILLE, Miss., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A team of archaeologists from Mississippi State University has found and studied a collection of ancient stamps they claim supports the biblical account of the reigns of kings David and Solomon.
Historians have suggested ancient Israel was only a collection of loosely organized tribes during the period of ancient history purportedly ruled by David and Solomon. In other words, there was no kingdom -- no David and Solomon.
But in a newly detailed paper, published this week in the journal Near Eastern Archaeology, researchers argue that six ancient clay seals used for official postage confirm the existence of a more expansive political entity.
"Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.," lead study author Jimmy Hardin, an anthropologist and expert on Middle Eastern cultures at Mississippi State, explained in a recent press release.
Testing suggests the six bullae -- a round seal attached to a papal bull -- originate from the early Iron Ages, lending "general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts," in the words of Hardin.
Hardin and his research team unearthed the seals at Khirbet Summeily, an archaeological site east of Gaza in southern Israel, where he and his colleagues have been excavating since 2011.
The fact that these official seals were uncovered at what was then just a rural outpost lends credence that there existed a political structure organized enough to exert influence on even peripheral settlements.
"It is our contention that, when taken together, these reflect a greater political complexity and integration," explained Hardin. "Scholars have tended to dismiss trends toward political complexity (e.g., state formation) occurring prior to the arrival of the Assyrians in the region in the later eighth century b.c.e."
Hardin's ongoing research also suggests early Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Israel were not based on farming, but on a collection of shepherds and herders.