Another significant archaeological discovery in Israel was just announced. A large limestone boulder with an “abecedary” (an inscription with the letters of the alphabet written from beginning to end) was discovered on the last day of the 2005 season of excavations at Tel Zeitah, Israel, which is about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv.
What is also exciting about this discovery is that the stone was embedded in a wall in the 10th century BCE strata of the site. This dating — if confirmed — makes the inscription the oldest Hebrew alphabetic inscription to date. P. Kyle McCarter is pictured (see above) with the inscription in the background during the news conference in Pittsburgh yesterday (photo: AP).
For more information see the Zeitah Excavations website, the New York Times, Associated Press, as well as Michael Homan’s blog (Michael was participating in the dig this last summer). Joe Cathy also has a couple posts about the discovery (here and here), as does Jim West (here and here). Finally, Chris Heard responds to Joe’s blog here.
In addition, if you are interested in reading a bit about the origin of the alphabet, you can check out my blog entry here.
All in all, this last summer was a good season for archaeology in Israel. In addition to this inscription, a large public structure was discovered by Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem (see here). The same dig also unearthed a seal mentioning a “Yehukal son of Shelemyahu son of Shobi” (see here). Finally, some fragments of Leviticus came to light earlier in the summer (see here) — with continued controversy (see here).