Monday, October 29, 2007

Ron Tappy and the Abecedary

I don't think this recently discovered alphabetic inscription has received coverage in the popular press like it deserves.  From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ron Tappy became a committed Christian in his mid-20s, after deciding to read the Bible straight through.

When he did, "the Old Testament just floored me, and the history of Israel became my history, and I became a Christian in that process. To this day, I have an abiding respect for the texts of Scripture," he said.

It seems fitting, then, that Dr. Tappy's most famous discovery as a biblical archaeologist is a 38-pound limestone rock inscribed with a 2,900-year-old alphabet.

The stone was found two years ago at Tel Zayit in Israel, a dig about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Using distinctive pottery and carbon dating of the soil levels above it, the stone was firmly traced to the 10th century B.C., the time when the biblical King Solomon was supposed to have lived.

The discovery was described by some experts as the most important find in biblical archaeology in the last 10 years.

One reason for the buzz was that the stone suggests the earliest Hebrew Scriptures could have been written down in that era -- hundreds of years earlier than many scholars had believed.

For Dr. Tappy, the alphabet stone also suggests not only that King Solomon was a real historical figure, but that he did in fact have a growing kingdom at the time, because Tel Zayit sits on the border of Solomon's Judah and the kingdom of Philistia, where the Philistines lived.

The story continues here.  The excavation's website is here, but has not been updated recently.  Photographs of the inscription appear to be more sacred than the ark rare but here's one with Tappy and another showing a few of the letters.

UPDATE: Offline there is a lot of information and photographs in this article:

Tappy, Ron E., P. Kyle McCarter, Marilyn J. Lundberg, Bruce Zuckerman (2006). "An Abecedary of the Mid-Tenth Century B.C.E. from the Judaean Shephelah". BASOR 344 (November): 5-46.

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