Thursday, July 30, 2009

Aramaic Inscription from 1st Century CE

An Aramaic inscription dating from the first century CE was found in excavations on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. There's a photo of two lines at the Jerusalem Post website, but I wasn't able to make out more than a scattered letter here and there. Hopefully, the "team of epigraphic experts" has better luck with the real thing.

From the Jerusalem Post:
A unique ten-line Aramaic inscription on the side of a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during Second Temple times was recently uncovered during archaeological excavations on Jerusalem's Mount Zion, it was announced Wednesday.

Inscriptions of this kind are extremely rare and only a handful have been found in scientific excavations made within the city.

The archaeological excavations are being carried out within the Gan Sovev Homot Yerushalayim national park, close to the Zion Gate. The work is directed by Professors Shimon Gibson and James Tabor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, with the co-ordination of Evyatar Cohen and Dr Tsvika Tsuk of the Israel Parks Authority.

The excavations follow work carred out at the site in the 1970s by Magen Broshi, when a monumental Arabic inscription from the thirteenth century was found. The inscription is due be exhibited in the new archaeological wing to be opened next year at the Israel Museum.

The new Aramaic inscription from the first century CE is currently being deciphered by a team of epigraphic experts in an effort to determine the meaning of the text, which is clear but cryptic. The dig also produced a sequence of building remains dating back to the First and Second Temple periods through to Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.

From the Second Temple period, archaeologists uncovered a house complex with an mikve (purification pool) with a remarkably well-preserved vaulted ceiling. Inside this house were three bread ovens dating back to the year 70 CE when Titus and the Roman troops stormed the city.

Archaeologists believe that this area of the Upper City of Jerusalem served as the priestly quarter of Jerusalem during Second Temple times.

Interesting discoveries including an ornate window screen made of stone supported this claim. Ten murex shells were also found and these were used for producing the argaman dye, which was used for the coloring the priestly vestments at that time.

In addition, a large arched building with a mosaic floor (preserved to a height of three meters) from the Byzantine period was also uncovered. Archaeologists say it may be part of a building complex or street associated with the nearby Church of St Mary.
HT: Todd Bolen


  1. Huh, so the characters are clearly written and preserved, but difficult. I don’t know much, but this sounds like the kind of find that can make a significant (not necessarily huge) contribution to our knowledge of how the script develops and varies.

  2. Perhaps, but anything with the potential for making a "significant contribution to our knowledge" must certainly be a forgery. The forgery possibility is always raised - even with inscriptions found in situ like Tel Dan. This one looked odd though. I wasn't sure if it was a mix of scripts or if the photo wasn't clear enough to tell the letters apart because some of it looked literally like chicken scratches to me. And I can read Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions, usually.