Israeli Archaeologists Find Ancient Text
By MATTI FRIEDMAN, AP
AAAHIRBET QEIYAFA, Israel (Oct. 30) - An Israeli archaeologist digging at a hilltop south of Jerusalem believes a ceramic shard found in the ruins of an ancient town bears the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered, a find that could provide an important glimpse into the culture and language of the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.
The five lines of faded characters written 3,000 years ago, and the ruins of the fortified settlement where they were found, are indications that a powerful Israelite kingdom existed at the time of the Old Testament’s King David, says Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the new dig at Hirbet Qeiyafa.
Inscription May Be Oldest Hebrew TextSebastian Scheiner, AP8 photos A ceramic shard uncovered in the ruins of an ancient town in Israel may bear the oldest Hebrew inscription ever found, archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel said Thursday. The discovery could provide important information on the culture and language of the Holy Land during biblical times.(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)
Other scholars are hesitant to embrace Garfinkel’s interpretation of the finds, made public on Thursday. The discoveries are already being wielded in a vigorous and ongoing argument over whether the Bible’s account of events and geography is meant to be taken literally.
Hirbet Qeiyafa sits near the modern Israeli city of Beit Shemesh in the Judean foothills, an area that was once the frontier between the hill-dwelling Israelites and their enemies, the coastal Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, said to be the scene of the slingshot showdown between David and the Philistine giant Goliath, and lies near the ruins of Goliath’s hometown in the Philistine metropolis of Gath.
A teenage volunteer found the curved pottery shard, 6 inches by 6 inches, in July near the stairs and stone washtub of an excavated home. It was later discovered to bear five lines of characters known as proto-Canaanite, a precursor of the Hebrew alphabet.
Carbon-14 analysis of burnt olive pits found in the same layer of the site dated them to between 1000 and 975 B.C., the same time as the Biblical golden age of David’s rule in Jerusalem.
Scholars have identified other, smaller Hebrew fragments from the 10th century B.C., but the script, which Garfinkel suggests might be part of a letter, predates the next significant Hebrew inscription by between 100 and 200 years. History’s best-known Hebrew texts, the Dead Sea scrolls, were penned on parchment beginning 850 years later.
The shard is now kept in a university safe while philologists translate it, a task expected to take months. But several words have already been tentatively identified, including ones meaning “judge,” “slave” and "king."
Archaeological DiscoveriesMohammad Najjar, Biblical Archaeology Review / AP23 photos Scientists say that a mine found in southern Jordan dates back to the time of King Solomon. The site, Khirbat en-Nahas, has been the focus of research for decades. It’s seen here in 2006. What’s new is that deeper digs at the site have uncovered materials that date back to the 10th century B.C.(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)
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