Could Israel shard prove Bible kings existed?

29th Jan 2014

A tiny shard of ancient pottery found in Israel could help scientists verify that two kings of the Old Testament existed.

Archaeologists believe that not only does it show the world's first wine label, it proves the reigns of King Solomon and King David really happened.

Such a discovery would add to the kudos for tourists on city breaks to Jerusalem. They already flock there for cultural sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the fortress of Masada, besides the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee.

The 10th century BC "Ophel Inscription" was excavated near the Holy Land's Temple Mount last year.

At first, archaeologists were perplexed by the strange language inscribed on the remains of a jug.

But a new translation finds the contents of a jar was "lousy" alcohol meant for slaves - and sheds fresh light on society at the time.

The label is believed to be the oldest Hebrew engraving to emerge from the archaeological digs in Jerusalem.

Some specialists earlier claimed it was written in an ancient near-Eastern language.

But Professor Gershon Galil, of the department of Jewish History at Haifa University, thinks it is really a type of ancient Hebrew.

The eight-letter inscription was engraved on a big clay pitcher, which was used to store inexpensive wine, in the latter half of the 10th century BC in Biblical times.

It was dug up in the Ophel region of the city, south of Temple Mount, as part of an excavation by the Archaeological Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Professor Galil said part of the inscription is comparable to the word "yayin", which, in the Ugarit language of northern Syria, means the worst quality wine.

The professor believes the carving was produced after King Solomon had constructed the first temple, his palaces and city walls.

The find sheds light on the Biblical kingdom's advanced society, where several people were thought to be literate and taxes were collected.

Copyright Press Association 2014

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