Earliest known stone carving of Hebrew word ‘Jerusalem’ found near city entrance

in Archaeology/Jerusalem

Via The Times of Israel:

The earliest stone inscription bearing the full spelling of the modern Hebrew word for Jerusalem was unveiled on Tuesday at the Israel Museum, in the capital.

While any inscription dating from the Second Temple period is of note, the 2,000-year-old three-line inscription on a waist-high column — reading “Hananiah son of Dodalos of Jerusalem” — is exceptional, as it is the first known stone carving of the word “Yerushalayim,” which is how the Israeli capital’s name is pronounced in Hebrew today.

The stone column was discovered earlier this year at a salvage excavation of a massive Hasmonean Period Jewish artisans’ village near the Jerusalem International Convention Center, at what is now the entrance to the modern city, by an Israel Antiquities Authority team headed by archaeologist Danit Levi.

“A worker came to me in the office towards the end of the day and excitedly told me to grab my camera and writing materials because he’d found something written,’” Levi told The Times of Israel, ahead of the column’s unveiling Tuesday.

‘My heart started to pound and I was sure everyone could hear it. My hands were trembling so badly I couldn’t properly take a picture’ — archaeologist Danit Levi

At first, the excited worker could not clearly explain what he had found, and Levi thought it was graffiti.

“I was picturing red spray paint in my mind and couldn’t understand how that happened because the latest dating could only be 2,000 years ago or earlier,” said Levi.

But when she saw the professionally chiseled Hebrew lettering inscribed into the stone column, she realized it was something unusual. Brushing off the dirt, she began to read what was written.

“My heart started to pound and I was sure everyone could hear it. My hands were trembling so badly I couldn’t properly take a picture,” said Levi, who dates the column and its inscription to 100 BCE.

The 80 cm. high column has a diameter of 47.5 cm, said Levi, and would have originally been used in a Jewish craftsman’s building. It presumably belonged to or was built with money from Hananiah son of Dodalos.

While inscribed in a Jewish village — Levi said there is evidence of ritual baths as well as other finds bearing Hebrew lettering at the site — the column was eventually reused in a plastered wall, found in a ceramic construction workshop in use by the Tenth Roman Legion, that would eventually destroy Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Hananiah may have been one of the several potters of the village located a mere 2.5 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) outside of ancient Jerusalem, who created vessels used by Jerusalemites and pilgrims for everyday cooking and Temple offerings. Industrial areas such as this one, said Levi, are always found outside of urban areas to avoid the city’s pollution.

Strategically located near clay, water, and fuel for their kilns, the village was also on a main artery leading to the Temple — which is used until today, noted the IAA’s Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch at the unveiling.

Jerusalem during the Second Temple, said Baruch, was one of the largest cities in the east, with a population of at least 50,000 residents, which swelled by as many as hundreds of thousands, during the three annual pilgrimage festivals. The excavated artisans’ site is approximately 200 dunams, “larger than a small village,” which would have been necessary to cater to the needs of the pilgrims ascending Temple Mount.

The inscription as it was found in the excavation near the Jerusalem International Convention Center, winter 2018. (Danit Levy, Israel Antiquities Authority)

 

The stone inscription is now on display at the Israel Museum in a room of the archaeology wing that is dedicated to Second Temple period artifacts discovered in Jerusalem, including a new piece which the inscription, “Ben HaCohen HaGadol,” or son of the High Priest. On a platform upon which the Jerusalem column stands are stone vessels and pottery, perhaps even created by Hananiah himself.

The inscription, labeled as Aramaic at the Israel Museum, gives some insight into Hananiah. Written in Hebrew letters, he is called “Hananiah bar Dodalos,” the Aramaic word “bar” used to denote “son of.” The name of his father, “Dodalos,” said the archaeologists, is a nickname for artists of the time, based on Greek mythology’s Daedalus.

Read more at The Times of Israel.

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