Pharaonic seal found in ancient coffin in Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli archaeologists unveiled on Wednesday a 3,300-year-old coffin containing a signet ring bearing the name of an Egyptian pharaoh among the remains of what they believe was a local nobleman. The discovery last month in Israel's northern Jezreel Valley, was the first of its kind in the region in half a century and pointed to wide Egyptian influence during the late Bronze Age reign of Seti I, whose name was on the seal. The Israel Antiquities Authority said it had dated remains in the broken coffin - whose cover fragments clearly depict a human face, ears and hands - to the 13th century BC. The discovery was made last month during the digging of a gas pipeline. Archaeologist Ron Beeri, a member of the excavation team, said the presence of the seal suggested the remains were those of a wealthy Canaanite who may have collected taxes or performed other duties on behalf of ancient Egypt. "We can't rule out the possibility that it may simply be a wealthy person who knew the Egyptian burial customs and preferred to be buried like an Egyptian, but in my opinion this possibility is less likely," Beeri said. A bronze dagger and saucer, some hammered pieces of bronze and a number of clay vessels were found at the burial site, suggesting the deceased was an important figure in the local community. Seti I extended Egypt's sphere of influence through military campaigns in what is now northern Israel and Syria, and the Jezreel Valley was a main thoroughfare. (Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Toby Chopra)

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