A New Ceramic Inscription from Jerusalem (10th century BC?) – George Athas: With Meagre Powers 10/07/2013
A new inscription purportedly dating to the 10th century BC has been discovered in excavations at Jerusalem. The inscription was inscribed on the shoulder of a large ceramic pithos jar that was turned up in Eilat Mazar’s excavation in the ‘City of David’ area (just south of the Old City walls). The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has issued a statement about the find, which I copy below at the end of this blog post (see blue section). Two photos accompanied the statement, and I have included them here in this blog post, too (…) To me the script certainly looks very old. I’m not sure I’d label it ‘Proto-Canaanite’, though. On first glance I would say tenth century BC seems about right, with the script bearing some resemblance to Phoenician. This is, of course, a preliminary estimate, because although there is a hi-res photo of the inscription here, I’d need to see the pottery up close in person to make a more definitive evaluation.
The 10th Century BCE Jerusalem Inscription – Jim West: Zwinglius Redivivus 10/07/2013
Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar says she has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city, the university announced Wednesday. The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site below the southern wall of the Temple Mount. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and could be an important addition to the city’s history.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. Dated to the 10th century BCE, the artifact predates by 250 the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.
The Decipherment of the New ‘Incised Jerusalem Pithos’ – Christopher Rollston: Rollston Epigraphy – Ancient Inscriptions from the Levantine World 11/07/2013
This inscription is written in the Early Alphabetic script. The inscription is written dextrograde. I am most comfortable with a date in the 11th century BCE. The extant lexeme on this inscribed pithos is arguably the word “pot.” [= pote, vaso, panela] The word “pot” may have been followed by a personal name, such as “Ner” or (perhaps) a commodity such as “nard.” I prefer the assumption that it is a personal name. In terms of the language of this inscription, the language is certainly Northwest Semitic, and I would suggest that it is methodologically safest to posit that the language is Canaanite (as the script is Early Alphabetic, that is, Proto-Canaanite). However, I think that someone could propose that the language is Phoenician. In fact, I also believe that it is linguistically possible (but perhaps slightly more difficult) to argue that the language is Old Hebrew. Ultimately, however, as is often the case, there is no diagnostic element present which allows us to draw a firm conclusion. For this reason, the matter of the precise dialect of Northwest Semitic must be left open for this inscription, but my belief is that “Canaanite” is the best way to refer to the language of this incised pithos. Finally, I should like to conclude by stating that I believe this is a nice inscription, important in various ways. Of course, I personally would be very disinclined to “build a kingdom upon this potsherd.” But I would wish to state that this is an inscription that fits nicely into, and augments, the totality of our epigraphic evidence for the early Iron Age [os sublinhados são meus].
Uma animada discussão de biblistas sobre esta inscrição pré-israelita, ainda não decifrada, está em andamento na lista Biblical Studies.
E um alerta: qualquer artefato arqueológico encontrado em Jerusalém costuma vir embrulhado em muitos interesses políticos e, em consequência, recheado de informações contraditórias na mídia não especializada e, o que é pior, até na mídia especializada. Sobre isto, confira aqui e aqui.