A three-thousand-year-old ruin with its own web site
October 31, 2008 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Archaeologists find a pottery fragment with the oldest known example of written Hebrew at the Elah Fortress(YT) in Israel - or maybe not

Photos of the shard, video concerning the find specifically, other photos from the site, and if you speak Hebrew a 5-minute interview with one of the archaeologists

Already sparking nasty words about Israeli-Palestinian land rights. At least the archaeologists haven't unearthed an unspeakable ancient horror too... yet! Follow the action and / or buy a t-shirt at http://www.elahfortress.com/.
posted by XMLicious (8 comments total)
I don't understand the significance of your "maybe not" post. Semitic languages are written right-to-left, so why would it be a surprise if this shard was written that way?
posted by Class Goat at 10:14 PM on October 31, 2008

The New York Times has a decent article about it here. The "maybe not" is on the second page. So far, this looks like another desperate attempt to find history where there's only myth.
posted by shetterly at 11:53 PM on October 31, 2008

Major fail! Sorry I didn't click this entry's first link before I posted. Does Metafilter have a post with a record number of duplicate links yet?
posted by shetterly at 12:07 AM on November 1, 2008

I might have misinterpreted something, but my intention was to point out the possibility that the writing on the shard is something other than Hebrew. That thread from the Ancient Near East 2 academic discussion list, with a group of people discussing the designation "Proto-Canaanite", was the most focused link I could find for the topic. I'd also thought that some of the archaeologists involved in the Khirbet Qeiyafa dig were involved in that discussion but after further Googling and cross-referencing I guess that's not the case. Sorry if the link was confusing or misleading.
posted by XMLicious at 12:15 AM on November 1, 2008

(Oops, that was in response to Class Goat, I should learn to use the preview button.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:16 AM on November 1, 2008

A six star rotation. Once upon a time horizon lost.
posted by Mblue at 4:00 AM on November 1, 2008

Financing for the dig is now being raised by an organization called Foundation Stone, run by a Los Angeles-born Israeli named David Willner, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Efrat and said the point of his group was “to strengthen the tie of the Jewish people to the land.” The group’s Web site says that it is “redrawing the map in Jewish education,” and that its activities are “anchoring traditional texts to the artifacts, maps and locations that form the context for Jewish identity.”

Uh-huh. Yeah, I trust these guys to take a careful, scholarly approach and not slant things to support their views. Absolutely.
posted by languagehat at 6:45 AM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The BBC article on this includes a detail:

Lead archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel identified it as Hebrew because of a three-letter verb meaning "to do" which he said was only used in Hebrew.

Apparently the verb is under dispute with others suggesting it might also be used by "a related tongue spoken in the area at the time" although this other tongue is not named.
posted by scheptech at 6:51 PM on November 1, 2008

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