10th century BC Hebrew inscription deciphered

Check out the following press release from the University of Haifa.  Here is a summary paragraph:

“A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David’s reign), and has shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.”

There is also an image of the inscription as well.


5 comments on “10th century BC Hebrew inscription deciphered

  1. Mike Weston says:

    I read another article that said it was found at/near the spot David is believed to have Goliath. I couldn’t get close enough on the pic to read anything and the drawing someone made didn’t help me in translation…better show up to class in the morning to further my training!

  2. Lamont Conyers says:

    Dr. McGinniss,
    This is Lamont, one of your former students from BBS. I presented a paper on the inscription. I can put some of the results on the blog if you want. Hope to see you at the ETS this year

    • mmcginniss says:

      Hi Lamont,
      I remember you doing some work on the inscriptions. If you have some results feel free to share them here. I will miss you at ETS this year unfortunately. Blessings,

  3. Lamont says:

    Dr. McGinniss,
    I will put the a draft of the paper that I presented in Philadelphia. Hope to take class with you again soon!

  4. Lamont Conyers says:

    The Paleography of the Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon
    Lamont T. Conyers


    The 2008 discovery of the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon provides early evidence of the alphabetic script in a secured archaeological context that has opened new avenues of research on the Semitic script of the Iron Age II in Israel. The inscription was discovered in the second building north of the gate in Area B, on the floor of room B at the Khirbet Qeiyafa Archaeological site. Written in black ink on the reverse side of the ostracon are five lines of alphabetic script that is written in a dextrograde or left-to-right direction. The size of the ostracon is 15×16.5 cm (“6×6.5”) and most of the letters of the ostracon are legible, but some of the letters have faded over time and are difficult to decipher. The infrared photos of the inscription by Bearman and Berry of the ostracon have improved the understanding of the alphabet. Yosef Garfinkel and the Hebrew University faculty in the publication of the archaeological results of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavations in 2007-2009 published the early studies of the ostracon. Misgav’s Paleography of the inscription provides an early analysis of the contents of the ostracon and calls the alphabetic script “Proto-Canaanite” that he describes as the early phase in the development of the alphabet. He compares the script with the Izbet Sartah abecedary (13th century), Phoenician Arrowheads (early to mid 11th century), the Ahiram Sarcophagus (early 10th), the Tel Zayit Abecedary and the Gezer calendar (late 10th century) and concludes that the language of the ostracon is Hebrew. Yardeni’s reading of the ostracon argues that the paleography of the text maybe dated to the 11th century and is Semitic in composition based on the words “spt” ‘bd” “nqm” and other words that she classifies as Semitic words and roots.

    The analysis of the script of the ostracon is based on the following observations. The first is that the script of the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon is a late Canaanite script. The inscription is consistent with the previous Canaanite inscriptions of Izbet Sartah, Qubur Walaydah and Lachish Ewer inscription from the 13th-11th century, along with the Canaanite Arrow inscriptions of the early to late 11th century. The writer of the ostracon did write two letters upside down. The reason is probably that the scribe rotated the ostracon as he was writing the inscription. The left to right writing on the ostracon is consistent with the Canaanite inscriptions of the period and indicate that the transition to right to left stance had not developed in Israel at this time.

    The final observation of the ostracon is it appears from the archaeological and Paleographical evidence that the Israelites wrote their legal and religious documents in the Canaanite script in the early period after the Exodus, during the period of the Judge to the Monarchy. Afterward, the Phoenician script was the international script of the Southern Levant, and the individual countries developed their own national script around the end of the 10th century BC and beginning in the 9th century in Edom, Ammon and Hebrew and other NW Semitic languages in the Iron Age IIA period. The Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon can be secured dated to the early to mid-11th century BCE, the period of Samuel, Saul and David.

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