The fragments, called ostraca, were discovered at the site of Machaerus, a well-known archaeological site connected with notable historical and religious figures of the first century including Herod the Great and John the Baptist. Chris Rollston, associate professor of northwest Semitic languages and literature, took possession of 20 ostraca in May and used multispectral imaging equipment at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences to examine the pieces and their faded ink writing more closely.Professor Rollston, of George Washington University, and his epigraphic work are well known to PaleoJudaica readers.
What do the ostraca say? The intriguing preliminary results:
While the ostraca are brief, Dr. Rollston believes they could include information that could help researchers better understand cultural practices in the first century. He believes some of the ostraca written in Aramaic include the names and titles of Jewish soldiers who served during the First Jewish Revolt. This would shed light on naming practices of the time and provide insight on a significant time in Jewish history.Some past posts on Multispectral Imaging and its application to epigraphy are here and links and here. And past posts on the site of Machaerus (the reputed site of the execution of John the Baptist) are here and links. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.
"It's difficult to know exactly when these inscriptions were written, but my sense is they were written sometime during the decade or two right prior to fall of Judaea to the Romans," he said. "These are inscriptions from this really pivotal period in what we know as ancient Judaea."
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