Friday, December 11, 2015

Another (early!) Lachish ostracon

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: At biblical site, researchers discover ABCs of how alphabet came to be. Oldest precursor to letter S found in nine-letter Canaanite text unearthed at Lachish, in central Israel; discovery ‘another piece in the puzzle’ of alphabet’s development, researcher says (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
A potsherd slightly larger than a business card found in the ruins of a Late Bronze Age temple at the biblical site of Lachish in southern Israel has yielded a few tantalizing letters from a 12th century BCE alphabet — what one researcher called a “once in a generation” find.

The inscription, three lines containing nine early Semitic letters, was discovered during excavations at the site in 2014 and is believed to date from around 1130 BCE. It’s the first Canaanite inscription found in a Late Bronze Age context in over 30 years, the authors of the paper said. The letters were etched into a clay jar before firing, and are exceptionally clear.

The first line reads pkl, the second spr — the Semitic root for scribe — but the third has two letters of uncertain meaning (one is fragmentary). The text includes the earliest dateable examples of the letters kaf — the precursor to the Latin letter K — samekh — S — and resh — R. Samekh had never before been found in early Canaanite inscriptions.

Details of the intriguing nine-letter inscription were published in the November/December issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

More on the current Lachish excavation and on the other Lachish ostraca is here and links.