The following write-up is a redacted conglomeration. Sources are available at the foot of the article. Fox News have reported the find.
Eilat Mazar’s excavations at the southern wall of the Temple Mount uncovered inscriptions on the shoulder of a pithos (large, neck-less ceramic jar) – the earliest alphabet letters ever found in Jerusalem – written in a Proto-Canaanite script that precedes the development of the Paleo-Hebrew used by the Israelites until the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. When the Judean exiles returned from Babylon, they brought back the square Aramaic script which ultimately replaced the Paleo-Hebrew script (both scripts were used together for hundreds of years). Paleographic assessment dates the inscription to a time before the direction of letters had been firmly determined and before a distinction between Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician established. The jar was inscribed in a place where ordinary workmen made pots, not the lofty study of a royal scribe; and (with the Gezer Calendar and Qeiyafa Ostracon) may signal widespread—if elementary—literacy during the time of David and Solomon.
Professor Gershon Galil’s New Studies on Jerusalem article suggest that the central words of the inscription are yayin (wine) and halak (a low-quality variety) – a classification of the type of wine stored: the first intact letter of the inscription was the last letter of a longer word that got cut off representing the date; the middle portion refers to the type of wine in the jug, a cheap variety; the final letter was also cut off from a longer word and lists the location from which the wine was sent. This inscription indicates a degree of bureaucracy and record keeping in tenth-century Jerusalem (after King Solomon built the First Temple, palaces, and surrounding walls that unified the city’s three areas — Ophel, city of David, Temple Mount) that runs counter to the Biblical Minimalist position.
Consider importation of cheap wine in light of Solomon’s building projects—monumental expansion in Jerusalem requires a large number of laborers, and a large number of conscript laborers require wine: tremendous infrastructural projects contribute to the sudden need for copious quantities of cheap wine, “…not served on the table of King Solomon nor in the Temple… but rather for the laborers in the building projects and the soldiers that guarded them. Food and drinks for these laborers were mainly held in the Ophel area.” Galil’s theory is shored up by pottery fragments found in Arad. “The ability to write and store in large designated vessels, noting type of wine, date it was received, and place it was sent from, attests to the existence of an organized administration that collected taxes, recruited laborers, brought them to Jerusalem, and took care to give them food and water. Administrative scribes could also write literary and historiographical texts. This has important implications for the study of the Bible and understanding the history of Israel in the biblical period.” Beyond that, the find lends support to claims of an organized bureaucratic system and provides evidence that writing was prevalent at the time.
- Jerusalem’s earliest alphabetic text
- Precursor to the Paleo-Hebrew script discovered in Jerusalem
- King Solomon’s Two-buck Chuck
- Decoded King Solomon era jug engraving
- The Great Minimalist Debate