No dia 15 de julho passado foi encontrado em Tel Zayit, sítio arqueológico situado na região de Lakish, no território de Judá, um “abecedário” hebraico. Contendo as 22 letras do alfabeto hebraico, a inscrição vem sendo considerada pelos arqueólogos como o mais antigo “alfabeto” hebraico de que se tem notícia, estando a pedra onde foi gravada inserida em uma construção do século X a.C. Fato curioso é que várias letras estão em ordem diversa do atual alfabeto hebraico, como a sequência vav, hê, hêth, záyin e têth, que hoje é hê, vav, záyin, hêth, têth. Ainda: sobre a origem e função da inscrição há opiniões divergentes entre os envolvidos em sua interpretação.
Especialistas em escrita antiga dizem que a inscrição mostra, provavelmente, um alfabeto ainda em fase de transição do fenício para o hebraico. Vale lembrar aqui que do alfabeto fenício derivam igualmente o ugarítico e o grego. A descoberta foi anunciada no dia 9 de novembro de 2005. No dia 20 de novembro a inscrição será apresentada e analisada na reunião anual da Sociedade de Literatura Bíblica (SBL), no Centro de Convenções da Filadélfia, na Pensilvânia.
Tel Zayit vem sendo escavada desde 1999 por uma equipe dirigida pelo Dr. Ron E. Tappy, professor de Bíblia e Arqueologia do Seminário Teológico de Pittsburgh, na Pensilvânia, USA. Além de financiado por doações da iniciativa privada, o projeto está ligado à ASOR – American Schools of Oriental Research -, com sede em Boston, MA, USA, e ao Instituto W. F. Albright para a Pesquisa Arqueológica, com sede em Jerusalém.
In the 10th century B.C., in the hill country south of Jerusalem, a scribe carved his A B C’s on a limestone boulder — actually, his aleph-beth-gimel’s, for the string of letters appears to be an early rendering of the emergent Hebrew alphabet.
Archaeologists digging in July at the site, Tel Zayit, found the inscribed stone in the wall of an ancient building. After an analysis of the layers of ruins, the discoverers concluded that this was the earliest known specimen of the Hebrew alphabet and an important benchmark in the history of writing, they said this week.
If they are right, the stone bears the oldest reliably dated example of an abecedary — the letters of the alphabet written out in their traditional sequence. Several scholars who have examined the inscription tend to support that view.
Experts in ancient writing said the find showed that at this stage the Hebrew alphabet was still in transition from its Phoenician roots, but recognizably Hebrew. The Phoenicians lived on the coast north of Israel, in today’s Lebanon, and are considered the originators of alphabetic writing, several centuries earlier.
The discovery of the stone will be reported in detail next week in Philadelphia, but was described in interviews with Ron E. Tappy, the archaeologist at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who directed the dig.
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“All successive alphabets in the ancient world, including the Greek one, derive from this ancestor at Tel Zayit,” he said.
The research is supported by an anonymous donor to the seminary, which has a long history in archaeological field work. The project is also associated with the American Schools of Oriental Research and the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, in Jerusalem.
Frank Moore Cross Jr., a Harvard expert on early Hebrew inscriptions who was not involved in the research, said the inscription “is a very early Hebrew alphabet, maybe the earliest, and the letters I have studied are what I would expect to find in the 10th century” before Christ.
P. Kyle McCarter Jr., an authority on ancient Middle Eastern writing at Johns Hopkins University, was more cautious, describing the inscription as “a Phoenician type of alphabet that is being adapted.” But he added, “I do believe it is proto-Hebrew, but I can’t prove it for certain.”
Lawrence E. Stager, an archaeologist at Harvard engaged in other excavations in Israel, said the pottery styles at the site “fit perfectly with the 10th century, which makes this an exceedingly rare inscription.” But he added that more extensive radiocarbon dating would be needed to establish the site’s chronology.
The Tel Zayit stone was uncovered at an eight-acre site in the region of ancient Judah, south of Jerusalem, and 18 miles inland from Ashkelon, an ancient Philistine port.
The two lines of incised letters, apparently the 22 symbols of the Hebrew alphabet, were on one face of the 40-pound stone. A bowl-shaped hollow was carved in the other side, suggesting that the stone had been a drinking vessel for cult rituals, Dr. Tappy said. The stone, he added, may have been embedded in the wall because of a belief in the alphabet’s power to ward off evil.
In a study of the alphabet, Dr. McCarter noted that the Phoenician-based letters were “beginning to show their own characteristics.” The Phoenician symbol for what is the equivalent of a K is a three-stroke trident; in the transitional inscription, the right stroke is elongated, beginning to look like a backward K.
Another baffling peculiarity is that in four cases the letters are reversed in sequence; an F, for example, comes before an E.
The inscription was found in the context of a substantial network of buildings at the site, which led Dr. Tappy to propose that Tel Zayit was probably an important border town established by an expanding Israelite kingdom based in Jerusalem.
A border town of such size and culture, Dr. Tappy said, suggested a centralized bureaucracy, political leadership and literacy levels that seemed to support the biblical image of the unified kingdom of David and Solomon in the 10th century B.C.
“That puts us right in the middle of the squabble over whether anything important happened in Israel in that century,” Dr. Stager said.
A vocal minority of scholars contend that the Bible’s picture of the 10th century B.C. as a golden age in Israelite history is insupportable. Some archaeological evidence, they say, suggests that David and Solomon were little more than tribal chieftains and that it was another century before a true political state emerged.
Dr. Tappy acknowledged that he was inviting controversy by his interpretation of the Tel Zayit stone and other artifacts as evidence of a fairly advanced political system 3,000 years ago. Critics who may accept the date and description of the inscription are expected to challenge him when he reports on the findings next week in Philadelphia at meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Society of Biblical Literature
Fonte: John Noble Wilford – The New York Times: Nov. 9, 2005