The excavation of Khirbet Qeiyafa has been in the buzz for several weeks due to a large ostracon (inscribed pottery shard) that is purported to have the oldest Hebrew inscription yet found.
The site is a fortress/city on the north ridge of the Elah valley – the location of David vs. Goliath. This was the frontier area between Philistine and Israelite territory. The site has been dated by Carbon-14 and pottery to 1050 – 970 B.C, the time of King David. The 200,000 tons of stone used in its fortifications are way out of proportion to its small population (est. 500), and would have required 10 years to construct. This leads experts to conclude it was built by a strong central government able to draw from national resources. Its strategic location guards the main highway between ancient Philistia and Jerusalem, the biblical capital of Davidic Israel. These points are suggested as evidence for David’s monarchy, whose historicity is questioned by some scholars.
A translation of the inscription has not yet been released. It is apparently written in proto-Canaanite script, a precursor to the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew of that time would probably have been written in this script. Scholars say they have identified the words “judge,” “slave” and “king” in the inscription. The full message could prove very interesting.
Lots of places to learn more. Todd Bolen has been following this story for a while here, here, here and here. (The last post has links to video and photos.) A New York Times article with photos and a map is here. The website for the actual excavation is here.
Ancient Hebrew Seal
Archaeologists excavating around the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem have uncovered someone’s personal seal. It dates to the 7th century B.C. – the time of Hezekiah, Manasseh, et al. – and shows an indivudual named “Hagab” posing as an archer, but in the style and pose of an Assyrian. Assyria was the dominant power of the time. Their art and culture would have influenced that of other nations, including Judah. (Do we not see our own culture, even with its baser aspects, turning up in other parts of the world?)
You can read the full IAA press release about the seal and its significance.