New Inscription from Jerusalem

I was just reminiscing about the summer of 2008. Remember the new inscriptions from Zincirli and Khirbet Qeiyafa? Well, it has been a while since anything interesting was pulled out of the ground with writing on it, but Jim Davila posted an IAA press release this morning for an inscription on a large pithos dated to 10th century Jerusalem.

hy130710_mazar1

The script is described as “Canaanite” and Ahituv (I assume) reads it from left-to-right as m q p ḥ  n [l]   n which means ???? (note the press release reads h but I assume a diacritic has dropped because it looks like to me). Well, beggers can’t be choosers, right? The shapes of the mem and nun are consistent with other 10th century writing (see Ahiram and Gezer Calendar). The qaf and pe are oriented toward the right rather than the left, which suggests the left-to-right order. The qaf looks more like a resh to me, though, so an alternative reading could be m r p ḥ n.

As always with these sort of things, the headline teases “Inscription from the Time of Kings David & Solomon” while the press release explains the fact that it does not seem to be Hebrew by attributing it to one of the “non-Israeli” [huh?] residents of Jerusalem like our good friends the Jebusites. You can’t seem to get rid of those guys.

Of course, this analysis wrongly conflates script with language while completely confusing things by invoking ethnicity. What is described as “Canaanite” script is better understood as simply the typologically older common script used across the region — it does not necessarily indicate that you are a Canaanite (a term that is problematic in itself). Distinctive national scripts begin to develop from the 10th into the 9th centuries, but as the Tel Fakheriya bi-lingual demonstrated, the typologically older script was still in use into the 9th century as well.

UPDATE: Just noticed that George Athas has also given some comments on the inscription. He also reads the qaf as a resh. I am not sure why Ahituv read it as a qaf which I would expect to look more like a line with a circle on top, but perhaps the reading is not Ahituv’s. George further notes problems with the pe, which he tentatively reads as tsade. I noticed that the pe seems too “closed”, but I don’t really see a tsade at all. It needs some “squiggle”. I would further note that having only seen a hi-res photo I am just having some summer armchair epigrapher fun with this, so take my opinions with a large grain of salt.

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13 Comments on “New Inscription from Jerusalem”

  1. George Athas Says:

    Hi Peter! My suggestion of tsade is tentative, but going by the hi-res photo, I think there is a tiny little squiggle happening. However, as you also note, we can’t rely on the photo only, so it’s all preliminary at this stage. I found this the most troublesome letter out of them all, though. Do you have a suggestion on what it might be?

    Also, the slant of some of the letters doesn’t convince me of the left-to-right order. Such slants are in evidence in other clearly right-to-left inscriptions, too.

    • Peter Bekins Says:

      Yes, I was pointing out the slant simply to make sense of why the inscription was being ‘read’ from left-to-right even though that doesn’t actually produce a reading. You’re right, when I zoom in on the photo I do see a slight squiggle on the “pe”. I am open to tsade or even tav as you also suggested.

  2. Mohe Bar-Joseph Says:

    Could the suggested left -right order questioned if the inscription on the neck of this phytos was not performed by a scribe facing the vesel from its front but by one who eas bending over its the top of the vesel and scribing from face down position?.

    • Peter Bekins Says:

      Are you suggesting that the scribe was working upside down and mixed up the direction of the letters or that we are reading it upside down?

      • Mohe Bar-Joseph Says:

        I tend to suggest the first possibility :
        the scribe was working upside down and mixed up the direction of the letters

      • Mohe Bar-Joseph Says:

        I tend to suggest the first possibility :
        the scribe was working upside down and mixed up the direction of the letters.
        By the way it could be tested by a simple experiment

      • Mohe Bar-Joseph Says:

        rotating the picture seems to favor the possibility that scribe was indeed working upside down

      • Peter Bekins Says:

        Do you see something in the stroke of the letters? It looks to me like they are being ‘hung’ from the top as when oriented as pictured. Do you see the scribe pushing up and away rather then pulling down and toward himself?

      • Mohe Bar-Joseph Says:

        If you rotate the picture one or two of the letters are apparently scribed by pulling up which should suggest that the scribe wrote when his face was oriented toward the bottom of the vesel


  3. […] ook in die stad kon schrijven. Daarna begon de discussie over wat er nu eigenlijk stond: 1, 2, 3, 4. De inzet van die discussie is de taal van de inscriptie: laat Kanaänitisch of vroeg […]


  4. […] ook in die stad kon schrijven. Daarna begon de discussie over wat er nu eigenlijk stond: 1, 2, 3, 4. De inzet van die discussie is de taal van de inscriptie: laat Kanaänitisch of vroeg […]


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