Earliest Known Stone Carving Of Hebrew Word ‘Jerusalem’ From Second Temple Period Found Near City Entrance Stuns Archaeologists

by Geoffrey Grider

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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.

This earliest known engraving of the word ‘Jerusalem’ in Hebrew is a stunning discovery that has archaeologists in Israel weeping for joy. Jerusalem, the City of David, is the capital city of the only land on earth known as God’s Land.

“The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.” Psalm 147:2 (KJV)

FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAEL: 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.

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 BC.

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 AD. READ MORE

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