An ancient tablet discovered on Mount Ebal dates back further than any known Hebrew inscriptions
By: April Carson
Archaeological discovery at Mount Ebal, Nablus: A folded lead tablet found in the 80s was subjected to x-ray tomography that uncovered an intriguing ancient Hebrew text. The analysis of the data led to the astonishing revelation of a formulaic curse, devised in a proto-alphabetic script of the Late Bronze Age. Interestingly, this inscription is older than any previously known Hebrew writing that has been discovered in Israel, predating it by at least 200 years.
This discovery holds tremendous importance as it has the potential to unveil the evolution of Hebrew writing before its emergence as a distinct script. While the inscription is undergoing further examination, we eagerly await the implications that this might have in store for us in the near future.
A group of researchers recently published their findings in the journal 'Heritage Science'. Led by Prof. Gershon Galil, a scholar in Jewish history and biblical studies at the University of Haifa, the team consisted of Scott Stripling from the Archaeological Studies Institute in Katy, Texas, Ivana Kumpova, Daniel Vavrik, and Jaroslav Valach from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at the Czech Academy of Sciences, as well as Pieter Gert van der Veen from the Department of Old Testament and Biblical Archaeology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany.
Their research paper reveals a highly sophisticated method of analyzing archaeological artifacts, which includes the use of advanced 3D modelling techniques. The authors explain that this new method can be used to reconstruct an object’s internal structure in order to study its function and cultural context.
The study is based on the analysis of a tiny clay seal impression, which was initially discovered in 2002 in an excavation at the Ophel Archaeological Park in Jerusalem. After meticulous research and advanced technological assessments, the team concluded that this piece of pottery dates back to the First Temple period (ninth-sixth centuries BCE) and belongs to a type of writing that is known as proto-Canaanite.
In December 2019, an expedition on Mount Ebal led by the prominent University of Haifa archaeologist, Adam Zertal (who passed away in 2015), resulted in the discovery of a small, folded lead tablet. The team had sifted through discarded material from excavations conducted decades earlier. This tablet was surprising and significant because it is the first time a metal tablet with writing has been discovered in Israel from this period.
Archaeologists discovered an object emerging from the eastern dump pile. The refuse matrix was traced back to two Late Bronze Age II and Iron Age I structures that he interpreted as altars. The earlier and smaller round altar lay beneath the geometric center of the larger and later rectangular altar.
Despite prior efforts to open the tablet, all attempts resulted in irreparable damage. Fortunately, a team of Israeli and European scientists conducted X-ray tomographic measurements, which helped reveal a previously hidden Hebrew inscription. The tablet was written in two columns and is composed of five lines. Further analysis revealed that the text had been transc by a professional scribe using a stylus on wet clay.
According to the biblical tradition, Joshua, the leader of the Israelites appointed to succeed Moses, built an altar on Mount Ebal. This altar was a key part of a renewal ceremony to strengthen the covenant after the Israelites' return to Canaan from Egypt. The research team suggests that Zertal's discoveries may relate to this specific verse. If their interpretation is correct, the tablet is one of the earliest examples of a Hebrew inscription from the time of Joshua’s conquest.
The significance of this discovery is immense. It provides insight into the development and sophistication of Hebrew writing in antiquity The inscription offers a glimpse into world of religious practices, beliefs rituals that have been passed down for thousands of years. Additionally, it serves as an important reminder of our cultural heritage, which should be preserved and respected for generations to come. We are thrilled by the potential of further discoveries in this field and can’t wait to see what future research holds.
This tablet is a remarkable example of how archaeological discovery can offer valuable insight into our history and culture. It will no doubt continue to inform us about the evolution of Hebrew writing far beyond what we now know. Its inscription has opened up a new realm of scholarly research that we are excited to explore.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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