Inscription from time of David & Solomon found near Temple Mount in Hebrew University excavation

Jul 10, 2013
This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem. Unearthed near Jerusalem's Temple Mount by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, it is dated to the tenth century BCE and bears an inscription in the Canaanite language. The text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which from left to right translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. The archaeologists suspect the inscription could specify the jar's contents or the name of its owner. Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Ouria Tadmor.

Working near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city.

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

Dated to the tenth century BCE, the artifact predates by two hundred and fifty years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century BCE.

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

The discovery will be announced in a paper by Dr. Mazar, Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Dr. David Ben-Shlomo of the Hebrew University, following their extensive research on the artifact. Prof. Ahituv studied the inscription and Dr. Ben-Shlomo studied the composition of the . The paper, "An Inscribed Pithos From the Ophel," appears in the Israel Exploration Journal 63/1 (2013).

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar displays a jar fragment unearthed near Jerusalem's Temple Mount bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in the city. The text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which from left to right translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar's contents or the name of its owner. Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Ouria Tadmor.

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in, which dates to the Early Iron IIA period (10th century BCE). An analysis of the jars' clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar's shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning. 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.

The suspect the inscription specifies the jar's contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Explore further: Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ancient handle with Hebrew text found in Jerusalem

May 20, 2009

(AP) -- Archaeologists digging on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives have discovered a nearly 3,000-year-old jar handle bearing ancient Hebrew script, a find significantly older than most inscribed artifacts unearthed ...

Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription deciphered

Jan 07, 2010

Professor Gershon Galil of the department of biblical studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David's reign), and has shown that ...

Ancient Bethlehem seal unearthed in Jerusalem

May 23, 2012

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old seal that bears the inscription "Bethlehem," the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday, in what experts believe to be the oldest artifact ...

Recommended for you

West US cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

10 hours ago

(AP)—For the first time in three decades, paleontologists are about to revisit one of North America's most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: The bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at the bottom ...

Radar search to find lost Aboriginal burial site

Jul 22, 2014

Scientists said Tuesday they hope that radar technology will help them find a century-old Aboriginal burial ground on an Australian island, bringing some closure to the local indigenous population.

Archaeologists excavate NY Colonial battleground

Jul 19, 2014

Archaeologists are excavating an 18th-century battleground in upstate New York that was the site of a desperate stand by Colonial American troops, the flashpoint of an infamous massacre and the location of the era's largest ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
1 / 5 (3) Jul 10, 2013
Maybe it is an acronym. How do you say "Warning: May contain Peanuts" in proto-Canaanite.
Birger
not rated yet Jul 11, 2013
Hmm...the Caananites were probably living there before the site of Jerusalem became a Jewish town. There is no evidence of a major settlement here at the time of the alleged rule of David or Solomon. Go with the most parsimonious explanation.
Yes, I know this will upset those who regard every word of the Old Testament as infallible, but facts are facts.