Monday, October 24, 2016

Late-antique Samaritan Ten Commandments for sale

EPIGRAPHY: 1,500 years old Ten Commandments tablet heads to auction in Texas (News Network Archaeology).
A stone tablet thought to be about 1,500 years old with a worn-down chiseled inscription of the Ten Commandments will be sold next month at auction, with a stipulation that the buyer must put it on public display, an auction house said on Friday.

The two-foot (61 cm) square slab of white marble weighs about 200 pounds (90 kgs) and is believed to be the oldest existing stone inscription of the commandments, Dallas-Based Heritage Auctions said. Opening bid is $250,000 for the stone, which the current owner likes to point out is not the original.

The tablet is inscribed in Samaritan script with the principles which are fundamental to Judaism and Christianity. It was probably chiseled during the late Roman or Byzantine era, between 300 and 500 A.D., and marked the entrance of an ancient synagogue that was likely destroyed by the Romans, Heritage said in a statement.

Although I don't think I have heard of this object before, it has been around for awhile, there is some literature on it, and it seems to have been authenticated as a genuine ancient artifact. The article has a good photograph of the badly eroded inscription. The link to the auction company site has some closeups and views from other angles. The auction site dates it to 300-830 CE, with a somewhat wider range than the article suggests. It also gives considerably more details about the provenance. The report is that it was found near Yavneh.

I assume that any prospective buyer will have all the provenance and authentication details checked thoroughly before the purchase. If those hold up and it is sold, I hope that the buyer donates or lends it to a museum for permanent display.

HT James McGrath on Facebook. Cross-file under Samaritan Watch. For Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch and the Living Torah Museum, see here and here.