Sunday, November 02, 2008

Valley of Elah yields oldest Hebrew text ever found

Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath.
Archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel shows a shard of pottery at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem October 30, 2008. Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The dig's uncovering of the past near the ancient battlefield in the Valley of Elah, now home to wineries and a satellite station, could have implications for the emotional debate over the future of Jerusalem, some 20 km away.

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University said they found five lines of text written in black ink on a shard of pottery dug up at a two-hectare site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Experts have not yet been able to decipher the text fully, but carbon dating of artefacts found at the site indicates the Hebrew inscription was written about 3,000 years ago, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,000 years, the archaeologists said.

Several words, including "judge", "slave" and "king", could be identified and the experts said they hoped the text would shed light on how alphabetic scripts developed.

In a finding that could have symbolic value for Israel, the archaeologists said other items discovered at the fortress dig indicated there was most likely a strong king and central government in Jerusalem during the period scholars believe that David ruled the holy city and ancient Israel.

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