report: cuneiform tablet preserving portion of a law code discovered at hazor

Tel Hazor, IsraelWhere was this in 2006 when I was digging there? lol.

Potentially great news: according to Dr. Jack Sasson:

Hazor Law Code Fragments

The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin have
recovered two fragments of a cuneiform tablet preserving portions of a
law code at Hazor.

The text parallels portions of the famous Law Code of Hammurabi, and,
to a certain extent even the Biblical “tooth for a tooth”. The team is
presently working its way down towards a monumental structure dating
to the Bronze Age, where more tablets are expected to be found.

The tablet is currently being studied at the Hebrew University. More
details to follow as soon as possible.

The excavations are sponsored by the Hebrew university and the Israel
Exploration Society, and take place in the Hazor National Park.

Now this has the potential of being something big. Drs. Amnon Ben-Tor, Sharon Zuckerman, and the excavation team have been looking for some sort of text archive for some time there. But to uncover a law code, well, that will get scholars and sensationalists alike buzzing.

Congrats to the excavators. Now that the story has broken, I’d love to see some photographs and some preliminary comments from the excavation team. A blog would be a great way to show some images to scholars and get their initial feedback.

The next question is: how long until a major news outlet gives us some sensationalist headline like ‘Biblical Law Code Found in Israel’ or ’10 Commandments Discovered?’ and who will be the guilty party?

More on the Hazor excavation here.

UPDATE:  See photos here.

on the cuneiform text recently discovered in jerusalem

This small fragment of a clay tablet, inscribed with Akkadian cuneiform text, is the oldest written document ever discovered in Jerusalem, dating to the 14th century BCE.

This small fragment of a clay tablet, inscribed with Akkadian cuneiform text, is the oldest written document ever discovered in Jerusalem, dating to the 14th century BCE.

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.

Ferrell Jenkins and Bible Places Blog have posted about the tablet.

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.
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