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10 January 2010
Archaeologists claim discovery of oldest Hebrew writing

A 3,000 year-old inscription discovered in the Elah valley has been deciphered, showing it to be the earliest known Hebrew writing, Israeli archaeologists said. The pottery shard with five lines of text in the proto-Canaanite script that was used by Hebrews, Philistines and others in the region was discovered 18 months ago. The writing was decrypted by Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who "has shown this is a Hebrew inscription," said a statement from the university.
     "The discovery makes it the earliest known Hebrew writing," the statement said. Carbon-dating has shown the inscription dates back to the 10th century BCE, making it about 1,000-years older than the Dead Sea scrolls. "This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans," said Galil, adding that both the words and the concepts used were specific to the Hebrew language and society.
     The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley. The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David's reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.
     The shard was found near the gate of a site known as Elah Fortress, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Jerusalem. Finding such an early example of Hebrew makes it possible the Bible could have been written several centuries before the current estimates, the statement said. "The inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures, but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text," the statement said.

Sources: AFP, Yahoo! News, Physorg.com (7 January 2010)

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