A small stone seal found during the recent excavations at Tel Beit Shemesh could (!) be the first archaeological evidence of the story of the Biblical Samson.
Some scholars are suggesting that the depiction on a seal found in the Sorek Valley shows the biblical hero Samson subduing a lion. From Haaretz:
A small stone seal found recently in the excavations of Tel Beit Shemesh could be the first archaeological evidence of the story of the biblical Samson.
The seal, measuring 1.5 centimeters, depicts a large animal next to a human figure. The seal was found in a level of excavation that dates to the 11th century B.C.E. That was prior to the establishment of the Judean kingdom and is considered to be the period of the biblical judges – including Samson. Scholars say the scene shown on the artifact recalls the story in Judges of Samson fighting a lion.
But excavation directors Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman of Tel Aviv University say they do not suggest that the human figure on the seal is the biblical Samson. Rather, the geographical proximity to the area where Samson lived, and the time period of the seal, show that a story was being told at the time of a hero who fought a lion, and that the story eventually found its way into the biblical text and onto the seal.
The story continues and explains some of the geographical connections. This discovery reminds me that while Samson’s life largely centers in the Sorek Valley, the most prominent city of that valley is never mentioned in the narrative (Judges 13-16). If the interpretation of this seal is correct, the people of Beth Shemesh remembered their local hero with some pride.
A high-resolution photo of the seal by Raz Lederman is available here.