Three-Thousand Year Old Jerusalem Fossil Find Could Prove That One of the Craziest Bible Stories Is True

By Anthony Smith on August 15, 2012 5:23 AM EDT

Samson
A fossil found depicts Samson, the strongman of biblical fame, fighting a lion. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Here's a headline you don't see often: science and religion are working together to prove that things actually may have been pretty 'effing crazy in bible times.

A new archaeological find excavated during a dig near Jerusalem could lend some hard science street cred to one of the key biographical details in the story of Samson, the legendary bible strongman.

An ancient seal smaller than a penny and larger than a dime found near Jerusalem depicts a man fighting a large beast with a mane-- potentially a lion-- which archaeologists present at the scene believe could be one of the very first references to the story of Samson.

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What does a man fighting a lion have to do with Samson? Among the many of the proud strongman's feats of strength, none were as gruesome or as proto-PETA inciting as the story of his tearing apart a lion as though it were a "young goat."

Talk about your Old Testament brutality.

Now, while the ancient seal stops short of proving that Samson walked the earth and loved Delilah (we'll be waiting on fossilized super hair before we go that far), it may very well "anchor the story in an archaeological setting," contends Shlomo Bunimovitz, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist.

The ancient seal was dug up at Beth Shemesh, an archaeological site equidistant from the two ancient cities of Zorah and Eshtaol, which are just about twelve miles due West of Jerusalem. Archaeologists contend that the seal dates all the way back to 1100 B.C.E.

"If we are right and what we see on the seal is a representation of a man meeting a lion, it shows that the Samson legend already existed around the area of Beth Shemesh during that time period," Bunimovitz reported, "We can date it quite precisely."

The Samson story, which is related to the reader in the Book of Judges, is an oddly relevant one considering its themes of conflict between tribes and the anxiety that comes from a civilization's ambiguous borders.

"These are stories of contact and conflict," Zvi Lederman, the co-director of the Beth Shemesh excavation said in a statement, "of a border that is more cultural than political."

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