Thursday, October 30, 2008

Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription

The Jerusalem Post has some details about the inscription from today‚Äôs archaeology conference in Jerusalem.  Some extracts:

A teenage volunteer found the curved pottery shard, 15 centimeters by 15 centimeters, 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 1,000 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....

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."

The Israelites were not the only ones using proto-Canaanite characters, and other scholars suggest it is difficult - perhaps impossible - to conclude the text is Hebrew and not a related tongue spoken in the area at the time. Garfinkel bases his identification on a three-letter verb from the inscription meaning "to do," a word he said existed only in Hebrew.

"That leads us to believe that this is Hebrew, and that this is the oldest Hebrew inscription that has been found," he said....

If the inscription is Hebrew, it would indicate a connection to the Israelites and make the text "one of the most important texts, without a doubt, in the corpus of Hebrew inscriptions," Maier said. But it has great importance whatever the language turns out to be, he added.

The full story is here.

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1 Comments:

  • Also from the article:

    "The nature of the ceramic shards found at the site suggest residents might have been neither Israelites nor Philistines but members of a third, unknown people, he [A. Maier] said."

    Interesting choice of words. "Unknown"?

    "Finkelstein [...] warned against what he said was a "revival in the belief that what's written in the Bible is accurate like a newspaper.""

    That's a good analogy, actually.

    By Anonymous dfrese, at Thu Oct 30, 02:57:00 PM  

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