Friday, September 12, 2008

10th Century Inscription from Shephelah

Aren Maier, excavator of Gath, was at a meeting in Jerusalem recently with a group of Israeli archaeologists and Yossi Garfinkel and Saar Ganor presented a newly discovered inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa.  Maier reports on the ANE-2 list:

This absolutely fantastic, fortified Iron Age site (late Iron I/early Iron IIA) has a very nice assemblage of pottery, and what may be the most important Iron Age Semitic inscription found in Israel in the last decade! (to be published by Haggai Misgav of the Hebrew University).

I can't give details about it, but OH BOY - this is going to be VERY INTERESTING!!!!

Clearly, the site, its dating, the finds, and their significance, will be of paramount importance in the discussions of the Iron Age southern Levant, and just about anything connected to it, in the near future.

Based on Yossi's previous track record in publishing excavation results, publications should be appearing soon!

I doubt Maier is exaggerating, and this could provide some fun discussion in the months ahead.  It may help some readers if I spell out more of what Maier means by "the site, its dating, the finds, and their significance."

The site: Khirbet Qeiyafa (aka the "Elah Fortress") is located opposite Azekah along a ridge north of the Elah Valley, near the famous battle of David and Goliath.

The date: The site, and therefore presumably the inscription, dates to "late Iron I/early Iron IIA," which is the scholarly way of saying "10th century B.C."  David and Solomon were kings in Jerusalem in the 10th century.

The finds: Some of this has already been reported, but Maier probably is meaning the inscription itself, about which nothing has been revealed to the public.  I reported previously that the ostracon (inscribed potsherd) has 4-5 lines of writing.

Its significance: The major discussion in "biblical archaeology" right now centers on the 10th century.  The newer view (popularized in this book) denies that Judah was a nation-state until hundreds of years later, insisting that the biblical account of the United Monarchy is pure fabrication.  Most archaeologists reject that view.  My guess is that Maier's excitement is because this inscription will play a role in this discussion.

Other inscriptions: It may be worth noting that two (or three) other significant 10th century inscriptions were found in the same region.  To the north, Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister found the Gezer Calendar in the early 1900s. To the south, Ronald Tappy discovered an abecedary (alphabetic inscription) at Tell Zayit a few years ago.  To the west at Gath, Maier uncovered the "Goliath inscription," which dates to the 10th or 9th centuries.  If you're an archaeologist looking for a 10th century inscription, head for the Shephelah.

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2 Comments:

  • Unpublished New Inscription

    It would be a major achievement if nothing is leaked from a meeting with over thirty in attendance.

    On the other hand, there would be nothing wrong if the excavator and interperter made its content known in a preliminary announcement.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Sep 12, 06:56:00 PM  

  • Photo of "The" ostracon here. Notice the Phoenician paleography chart on the table next to the artifact! Thanks for the teaser last month, Todd!

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Sat Sep 13, 12:46:00 AM  

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