A few people have inquired about the new Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription discovered in the 2012 season. I asked Yossi Garfinkel about it last week when I drove up to Chattanooga (from Tampa!) to catch his presentation at Southern Adventist University. He said they have made good progress on it and may publish something in a few months. He wouldn’t release any details about it during his presentation but told me beforehand that the results are “very interesting.”
I saw the new inscription when it was found last summer. It is from the late-11th/early-10th century Iron Age level at Qeiyafa. It is readable. I’ll post details here as soon as they are released to the public.
Why is such an inscription important? Some scholars have questioned whether Judah or Israel were literate societies in the 10th century B.C. This hypothesis was based on a lack of known inscriptions from that period. If writing was rare to non-existent, it would be unlikely for those societies to produce history, religious texts, written poetry/Psalms, or written records (important for a centralized government).
At least three inscriptions have been discovered since the literacy question was raised. Two of them are from Khirbet Qeiyafa and date to the period in question, the late-11th/early 10th century. (This is the biblical period of Saul and David.) The first inscription found at Qeiyafa is a long ink inscription on a large piece of broken pottery. The ink has faded with time and is difficult to read, though a few words are legible.
The second inscription may not be as long as the first one, but it may attest to a functionally literate society. The existence of even a simple inscription indicates that 1) someone is able to write it, and 2) others are able to read it.