Nov. 22 (UPI) -- A rare tiny stone weight from the First Temple Era has been unearthed near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon around 3,000 years ago before the use of coins. Jews didn't have coins until the Persian erain the fifth century B.C., and they previously paid their "temple tax" in precious silver.
It was uncovered when soil was transferred from the excavation area to the sifting area at Emek Tzurim National Park.
The 3,000-year-old stone has the word "beka"-- meaning "to split" -- written in ancient Hebrew script. It was required by every Jew, 20 years and up when visiting the ancient Temple, as stated in Exodus 38:26.
"When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots," archaeologist Eli Shukron, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said to Arutz Sheva, known in English as Israel National News. "In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight."
Skyukron told Haaretz he found the first beka a few years ago in much the same spot.
The biblical shekel weighed 11.33 grams.
"Beka weights from the First Temple period are rare; however this weight is even rarer, because the inscription on it is written in mirror script and the letters are engraved from left to right instead of right to left," Skukrom said. "It can therefore be concluded that the artist who engraved the inscription on the weight specialized in engraving seals, since seals were always written in mirror script so that once stamped the inscription would appear in regular legible script."
He said the seal craftsman got confused when he engraved the inscription on the weight and mistakenly used mirror script as he was used to doing.
"From this mistake we can learn about the general rule: The artists who engraved weights during the First Temple period were the same artists who specialized in creating seals," Shukron said. "The Bible, the artifact found close to Solomon's Temple, north of the City of David, the Temple foundations -- everything is connected."
The artifact will be on display to the general public during Hanukkah in Emek Tzurim National Park.
Among the artifacts discovered so far in this project include the King Hezekiah's seal, coins from various periods of Jerusalem, arrowheads and jewelry.