Inscription From the Time of Kings David & Solomon
Jerusalem, July 10, 2013 — Working near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has
unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the
The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar
found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. According to Dr.
Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of
its kind discovered in Jerusalem and an important addition to the
Dated to the tenth century BCE, the artifact predates by two hundred
and fifty years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem,
which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth
A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s
Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs archaeological excavations
on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the
The discovery will be announced in a paper by Dr. Mazar, Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Dr. David Ben-Shlomo of the Hebrew University, following their extensive research on the artifact. Prof. Ahituv studied the inscription and Dr. Ben-Shlomo studied the composition of the ceramic materials. The paper, "An Inscribed Pithos From the Ophel," appears in the Israel Exploration Journal 63/1 (2013).
The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was
fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments
of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to
stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they
were discovered in, which dates to the Early Iron IIA period (10th
century BCE). An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates
that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the
central hill country near Jerusalem.
According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and
probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion
is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning.
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.
The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s
contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in
Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli
residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city
population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.
Excavations at the site are conducted in collaboration with the Israel
Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the
East Jerusalem Development Company. The site is in the national park
surrounding the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, near the southern wall
of the Temple Mount compound. The Israel Antiquities Authority
maintains the excavation site as a national park open to the public.
The excavations are made possible through a generous donation by
Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. Participants in the dig
include Israeli students and workers, along with students or alumni of
Herbert W. Armstrong College sent to Jerusalem from Edmond, Oklahoma
to participate in the excavation.