Archaeologists in Israel said on Oct 30th 2008 that they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew inscription ever found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Israel. However the Ancient Hebrew inscriptions found in the mines of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt are believed to be at least 500 years older by other Ancient Hebrew scholars.
The Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription
A teenage volunteer archaeologist found the shard of pottery with five lines of black ink writing on it while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath, in the Judean foothills. This fortress is currently called Khirbet Qeiyafa or Elah Fortress.
Carbon dating of burnt olive pits found in the same layer of the site indicates the inscription was written about 3,000 years ago (between 1,000 and 975 BCE - the same time as the Biblical golden age of King DUID's (David's) rule in IRUSHaLIM (Jerusalem).)
This was a time when paleo Hebrew (not Ancient Hebrew) was predominantly in use. It's not clear whether the inscription uses the paleo or Ancient Hebrew alphabet.
If the alphabet is Ancient Hebrew then this would be good because 1) we would know that Ancient Hebrew was still in use during the golden age, and thus maybe even later - for example during the exile of tribes of ISHaRAAL, and 2) it would lend further proof to the idea that all Hebrew words have pictographic roots. However it should be noted that we have Ancient Hebrew inscriptions that are at least 500 years older.
Here are some articles on that provide a background to the discovery and statement made by the archaeologists.
Archaeologists report finding oldest Hebrew text - Oct 30 2008
Have Israeli archaeologists found world's oldest Hebrew inscription...
Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription Update - Oct 31 2008
More Archaeological Finds in Israel - Nov 3 2008
Best Images Released So far
Below are the best images I could find of the Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription so far. Only a few photos were released, but they appear to be deliberately almost impossible to read, as the excavators may naturally want to translate the inscription before someone on the internet does. Several words, including "judge," "slave" and "king," have at least been identified so far.
It is not clear to me whether the alphabet is Ancient Hebrew or paleo Hebrew, but I am leaning more towards ancient. Until I find higher resolution images I would not be sure. (Please let me know if you stumble across any.) There are three letters I can see and two of them could be either ancient or paleo, whereas the third more like ancient. Ancient Hebrew is also called Proto Canaanite, Proto Sinaitic or Proto Hebrew. Ancient Hebrew is not the same as paleo Hebrew.
Firstly, a letter shaped like the letter "A" can be seen in both images. This resembles the Paleo Hebrew equivalent of the modern Hebrew "aleph", more than the Ancient Hebrew ox-head letter "AL". However the letter does not have any similarity to the modern Hebrew aleph. (This is because for some (possibly conspiratorial) reason when the IEUDIM were in exile in Babylon some of their elite scribes adopted the Elephantine Aramaic alphabet - which henceforth birthed a line of Aramaic alphabets which eventually produced modern square script Hebrew. Out of all alphabets in use today, the English (and Greek) alphabets are the most similar in appearance to the Paleo and Ancient Hebrew alphabet. This is why the inscribed letter looks like an English letter "A". This is just one reason why the English and Greek alphabets can be used to decode the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton).
Secondly, in the first photo there is also a letter which is a circle with a cross inside. This is the Paleo AND Ancient Hebrew letter "THaTH" pronunced as "theeth". Thith was a picture of a basket that carried circular ceramic pots. In modern Hebrew this letter is called "tet".
Finally, in the second photo (below) next to the man's own right thumb (bent over) there is what resembles the letter "SHaN" (shin in modern Hebrew). This is two rectangular front teeth. This letter looks more like Ancient Hebrew than paleo Hebrew because the paleo Hebrew equivalent on the other hand is more like the shape of the letter "W".
Sinai Inscriptions Predate this Inscription by at Least 500 Years
Most Ancient Hebrew inscriptions have been found in Egypt. Some are ca 3500 years old. This is because the ISHaRaALite (Israelite) slaves graffitied the mines in which they worked. These mines happened to be ideal for the preservation of rock inscriptions - dry and dark. Here is one particular location that has yielded many inscriptions.
Serabit el-Khadim, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
(4:09) This is a History Channel excerpt from the programme The Naked Archaeologist. It shows an Ancient Hebrew inscription that is about 3500 years old. It is situated in an old slave mine called Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.
The presenter Simcha Jacobovici says that the alphabet of this inscription is the basis for the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, English and Arabic alphabets.
The inscription reads, "AL - Save Me", and not "El - Save Me" as he erroneously points out. An aleph was said as an "A" or "ah" sound, just like it does in English, Greek and Arabic today - it is not a silent letter.
For more Ancient Hebrew inscriptions see the Virtual Museum of Early Hebrew by the Ancient Hebrew Research Center.
Article Last Updated Sep 9, 2010.
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