It’s always cool to find artifacts. You may have even had an experience where you found an interesting-looking rock and told yourself it was something special from centuries ago, just for the thrill of believing you’d discovered something important. For a ten-year-old Russian boy named Matvei Tcepliaev, however, pretending wasn’t necessary. He found an item so culturally, socially, and temporally relevant, that it is almost difficult to believe. What was it, you ask? A 3,000 year old seal that dates all the way back to the time of the kings David and Solomon.
It seems that Matvei stumbled upon this relic while lending a helping hand to The Temple Mount Sifting Project, a project which has been in the works for over ten years. It was put into effect after an Islamic organization called waqf removed hundreds of truckloads of dirt from certain areas of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is a sacred place to both Jews and Muslims that they have shared for thousands of years, albeit contentiously. When the waqf began to “renovate” parts of the the Temple in the ’90s, it caused outrage among many of the Jews. It was seen by some as an attempt to simultaneously “Islamicize” the Mount and destroy the Jewish history present there. As a solution, the Sifting Project was enacted, and Matvei had the sheer luck of being the one to discover a tiny piece of historical significance.
So, other than being a fascinating piece of ancient history, what is the particular significance of the seal? What is it that makes it so relevant today? Well, to put it simply, it serves as a tangible representation of the ongoing strife between Palestine and Israel. Whether or not there is truth to the suggestion that the Muslims were trying to purposely deracinate Jewish history with their changes to the Temple, it shows that history has a way of enduring and preserving itself. No matter how many changes occur over no matter how many years, many aspects of the past will remain indelible.
It also shows that when two parties are in conflict, sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help solve the problem. Though the seal was an infinitesimal piece of a huge puzzle, it is still undoubtedly important to many people. Matvei, too young and innocent to choose sides on an issue alien to him, simply wanted to help those around him with a meaningful project. And, hey, it’s fun to dig in the dirt as a kid.
In the end, a search for meaning is the driving force of most people’s lives. But when it’s finally found, it’s often by accident. It’s good to know that happy accidents still exist.