11th November 2005
I know this is (relatively) old news — at least on the ‘net — but there has been another exciting archaeological discovery announced: Goliath’s cereal bowl has been found! An ostracon (a fancy scholarly name for a piece of broken pottery) has been with found with Goliath’s name on it. Now we can rest assured that our faith is not in vain because we can prove Goliath existed! (Now if we could only figure out who actually killed Goliath! See 2 Sam 21:19 if you are confused).
OK, OK, I may be guilty of exaggerating the evidence a wee little bit. OK, perhaps my claims are a bit unfounded. OK, fine, I don’t know what I am talking about!
Now that I got that off my chest, what was really discovered at Tell es-Safi (the site of the ancient Philistine city of Gath) was an ostracon bearing names that are similar to the name of David’s boyhood nemesis, Goliath (×’×œ×™×ª). The names inscribed on the pottery shard (×?×œ×•×ª ‘lwt and ×•×œ×ª wlt) appear to be of Indo-European derivation, like the hypothesized etymological parallels of the name Goliath.
So when we come right down to it, this discovery does not prove that a young David killed a giant named Goliath. It does not even prove a Goliath ever existed. It is, however, the earliest known Philistine inscription (being dated to the 10th or early 9th century BCE), which is something to be excited about. And it may even suggest that the derivation of the name “Goliath” accurately reflects naming conventions of that period.
Christopher Heard suggests calling the ostracon the “‘LWT/WLT sherd” (Isn’t that “shard”?). While that may be more accurate (and less sensational), it isn’t very “sexy”! I still lean towards calling it “Goliath’s Cereal Bowl.” (OK, how about the “Tell es-Safi ostracon”?)
Christopher Heard has an excellent summary of the news/blog stories surrounding the inscription as well as an insightful deconstruction of the exaggerated claims found in the popular press. Jim West has reproduced the press release from Bar Ilan University regarding the find here. In addition, I just noticed Duane Smith over at Abnormal Interests has an interesting entry on the inscription.