10th-Century Inscription Found in Jerusalem is Earliest Known

Matthew Kalman reports:

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar says she has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city, the university announced Wednesday.

The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site below the southern wall of the Temple Mount. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and could be an important addition to the city’s history.

The inscription is engraved in a proto-Canaanite / early Canaanite script of the eleventh-to-tenth centuries BCE, which pre-dates the Israelite rule and the prevalence of Hebrew script.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h,n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

Dated to the 10th century BCE, the artifact predates by 250 the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.

The university says it is therefore “from the time of Kings David and Solomon.”

Jerome Murphy-O’Conner was so right when he made his pronouncement: ‘Archaeology in Israel never stops’.

UPDATE:

Dr Eilat Mazar unveils the earliest alphabetical inscription ever found in Jerusalem in a video:

HT:  Brent Nagtegaal

 

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