Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Khirbet Qeiyafa: The Discussion Continues

John has provided us with the lowdown on the inscription today, mediating between the extreme caution of Rollston and the sensational overblown conclusions of the media. I agree with John's assessment and suggest you click through to his post.

He also links to the recent discussion of Khirbet Qeiyafa with Seth Sanders (author of The Invention of Hebrew) on The Book & The Spade. I haven't yet had a chance to listen, but I'm looking forward to it.


  1. I had some questions on the Qeiyafa inscription. Is there anything significant about the epigraph being written in ink as opposed to being incised? What about the possibility that it was written left-right (or even top-down)? I think the Gezer calendar was written right-left (right?), and this may be contemporaneous. It seems as if most people are saying it's not exactly Hebrew, but what about its date? I wonder how certain the date is based on the stratigraphy of the site.

  2. I don't often publish Anonymous comments, but your questions are relevant. Writing with ink on a potsherd was common for letters and everyday documents during the Iron Age and earlier. An inscribed text is usually a royal monument of some kind. It does appear to have been written left to right. Most Hebrew is right to left, but the earliest inscriptions are less strict about this convention. That tells us this is an early text. As far as I know about the stratigraphy, it was found in a 10th century BC layer. This doesn't exclude the possibility that it was an earlier text (possibly 11th century) that survived to the 10th century. The only reason to say this is not exactly Hebrew is that up until now we didn't think Hebrew existed at all this early.