Published July 10, 2013
A 3,000-year-old inscribed piece of an earthenware jug dating back to the time of King David has archaeologists stumped.
The ancient inscription is the earliest alphabetical written text ever found in Jerusalem, according to researchers from Hebrew University who discovered the artifact.
Working near the Temple Mount, head archaeologist Eilat Mazar uncovered the 10th century B.C.E inscription, engraved on a large pithos, a necklace ceramic jar, along with six others at the Ophel excavation site.
The inscription is written in the Canaanite language, a Biblical people who lived in the present-day Israel, and is the only of its kind to be found in Israel. The artifact predates the previously oldest inscription found in the area by 250 years and predates the Biblical Israelites' rule.
Reading from left to right, the text is composed of a combination of letters that translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n and have no known meaning in west-Semitic languages.
The meaning of the text remains a mystery but Mazar suspects it relates to the jar's contents or the name of its owner.