Dr. Christopher Rollston has published an excellent examination of the small cuneiform text that was recently discovered in the Jerusalem Ophel, and a critique of some of the claims made by its discoverer, Eilat Mazar, who recently published the findings with others in Israel Exploration Journal (Eilat Mazar, Wayne Horowitz, Takayoshi Oshima, and Yuval Goren, “A Cuneiform Tablet from the Ophel in Jerusalem,” IEJ 60:1 (2010), 4-21.)
Rollston’s “Reflections on the Fragmentary Cuneiform Tablet from the Ophel” is a careful, reasoned analysis of the inscription and a much needed cautionary response to some of the sensational claims that we’ve begun to hear regarding this fragmentary text.
The Jerusalem Post’s Ben Hartman reported the story here.
Voice of America’s David Byrd has a nice article and audio report on the find here.
Jim Davila has offered reflections on the discovery and the reporting of it here.
I’ll make only a few summary notes regarding the discovery of this inscription.
- It is an administrative text, very fragmentary in nature, and wholly non-descriptive.
- While one could understand it as a part of a correspondence between Amarna and Jerusalem, there is nothing other than the approximate date of the fragment and the location of its discovery that supports this. As Rollston points out, “There are no personal names that are preserved on this tablet… There are no titles (e.g., “king”) preserved on this tablet… There are no place names (e.g., “Egypt”) preserved on this tablet.” It could have been written to another administrator in Jerusalem. This is contra Horowitz, who argues that the high quality of the writing and the object suggests that it was a message sent from an early king of Jerusalem to a Pharaoh in Egypt.
- This fragment demonstrated that there was someone capable of writing and giving orders in Jerusalem long before the rise of Israel.
- It proves that someone (we don’t know who) was writing to someone (to whom we don’t know) in Akkadian in Jerusalem in the 14th century BCE. That’s about it.
Filed under: archaeology, israel, Jerusalem, palestine, scholarship Tagged: | akkadian, amarna, ben hartman, bible places blog, christopher rollston, city of david, cuneiform, david byrd, eilat mazar, ferrell jenkins, hebrew university, institute of archeology, Jerusalem, jim davila, ophel, tablet, takayoshi oshima, voice of america, wayne horowitz, yuval goren