Tag Archives: Eilat Mazar

Tenth century B.C. inscription found in Jerusalem

Hebrew University announces another significant archaeological discovery today. The entire press release is below.

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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 city.

Dr. Eilat Mazar with Canaanite inscription.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar displays a jar fragment unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Oria Tadmor.)

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 city’s history.

Canaanite inscription excavated by Dr. Eilat Mazar.

This jar fragment bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language was unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Noga Cohen-Aloro.)

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 century BCE.

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 Temple Mount.

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.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Does this seal bear the name of a Bible character?

We now have dozens of seals bearing the names of characters mentioned in the Bible, but every new one is interesting. The Jerusalem Post, January 16, 2008, reports the discovery of a seal that it says bears the name of a family of temple servants who were exiled to Babylon in 586 B.C., and then returned to Jerusalem after the exile. The discovery was made by Dr. Eilat Mazar at the City of David Excavation.

The Jerusalem Post:

The seal, which was bought in Babylon and dates to 538-445 BCE, portrays a common and popular cultic scene, Mazar said.
The 2.1 x 1.8-cm. elliptical seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense altar with their hands raised forward in a position of worship.
A crescent moon, the symbol of the chief Babylonian god Sin, appears on the top of the altar.
Under this scene are three Hebrew letters spelling Temech, Mazar said.
The Bible refers to the Temech family: “These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city.” [Nehemiah 7:6]… “The Nethinim [7:46]”… The children of Temech.” [7:55].
. . .
“The seal of the Temech family gives us a direct connection between archeology and the biblical sources and serves as actual evidence of a family mentioned in the Bible,” she said. “One cannot help being astonished by the credibility of the biblical source as seen by the archaeological find.”

The full article is here.

Seal Discovered by Dr. Eilat Mazar in City of David Excavation.

According to the article, Dr. Mazar reads the inscription as Temech. In many English versions this name is translated as Temah. The Nethinim are mentioned in Nehemiah 7:24 rather than 7:46. See also Ezra 2:53. Other scholars were quick to point out that Mazar had read the inscription left to right, but that seals are normally in the reverse order so that when they are impressed in clay the name reads right to left. Thus the suggestion has been made that the name should be Shelomith. Others have pointed out that there was a Shelomith among the returnees from Babylon (Ezra 8:10).

A warning is in order. There is no way to connect a name on a seal, without additional information such as a title, to a specific person in the Bible. The best one can say is that the name was common to the time of a given event or book. And we are never quite sure if the reporter with a deadline to meet got the comment correct, or placed it in the correct context. In other words, we must await additional, more detailed information. A context for the dating of the seal to a particular year, or span of years, must be provided.

Be patient and wait at least another week (month, year, decade) before using this in your sermon!

Many scholars are critical of Dr. Eilat Mazar and her work in the City of David Excavation. They paint her as a person with an agenda to prove the Bible true, and that she stretches the evidence to fit the theory. If this is true, it is not good. On the other hand, I suspect it is the lack of belief in the veracity of the Bible that prompts some to criticize her every shovel of dirt.

In 2005 Mazar announced the discovery of a clay bulla (the impression of a seal) bearing the inscription, “Yehukal son of Shelemyahu son of Shobi.” The suggestion has been made, and seems legitimate, that this is the name of the “Jehucal the son of Shelemiah” mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3. This bulla is added to several others, published much earlier, of persons named in the book of Jeremiah.

Archaeology has been a wonderful tool for the Bible expositor, but we must be careful not to expect too much from it.

The aerial photo below, which I commissioned a fews years back, shows the area of the Temple Mount to the north (top of photo) and the City of David to the south (bottom of photo).

Aerial View of Jerusalem - Temple Mount and City of David. Photo belongs to Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Paleojudaica; Todd Bolen; Chris Heard