Tuesday, April 05, 2022

More questions about the Mount Ebal amulet

PROVENANCE: From West Bank Debris to Evangelical Hands: The Shady Journey of a Bible-era Curse. Researchers recently claimed a groundbreaking find in biblical archaeology: the oldest Israelite inscription, dating from the 13th century B.C.E. In addition to doubts about whether it’s ‘kosher,’ the manner in which it was obtained in the West Bank is also arousing suspicion (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).

I said that I wanted to know more about the provenance trail of the object. This article has more information. And it asks more questions.

Unrelated to this article, but another question has been bothering me. I have not seen it mentioned elsewhere. Is there any other example of an inscribed lead amulet in a Northwest Semitic language from as early as the twelfth or thirteenth century BCE?

I am aware of inscribed metal amulets (gold, silver, bronze, lead) in Phoenician, Punic, and Hebrew, as well as Egyptian, from the seventh to fifth centuries BCE through late antiquity. And many in Greek and Latin during much of that period. But none earlier. For details, see Roy D. Kontansky, "Textual Amulets and Writing Traditions in the Ancient World," pp. 507-54 in Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, ed. David Frankfurter (Brill, 2019).

Unless I have missed something, which is possible, the Mount Ebal amulet would be the earliest inscribed metal amulet discovered in the ANE and Mediterranean region by a good five centuries. That is possible, of course, but it is yet another remarkable feature. It makes the lottery we won even bigger.

Again, we should proceed cautiously. So far we have spectacular claims and almost no verification. I look forward to more information.

Background here and links.

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