JERUSALEM, Israel - Hebrew University archaeologists unearthed a tiny clay fragment etched with the oldest writing ever discovered in Jerusalem.
Archaeologists believe the 2 x 2.8 x 1 cm. fragment, dating to the late Bronze Age (14th century) before King David conquered Jerusalem, was likely part of a larger tablet.
Israeli archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, director of the City of David excavations, said researchers had been analyzing the fragment for more than six weeks to ensure an accurate report on "one of the most important finds we've ever had."
The fragment was discovered during a process called wet sifting from an area between the Old City's southern wall and the City of David. Mazar believes there is more to be found.
"A piece this small wouldn't have been sitting there all by itself. There have to be more pieces like it," Mazar said.
Hebrew University Prof. Wayne Horowitz, assisted by Dr. Takayoshi Oshima, deciphered the cuneiform symbols and concluded that a highly trained scribe executed the work.
"What we can see is that the piece was written in very good script and the tablet was constructed very well," Horowitz said. "This indicates that the person responsible for creating the tablet was a first-class scribe," he said.
"In those days, you would expect to find a first-class scribe only in a large, important place," said Horowitz, who specializes in Assyriology.
"This shows that Jerusalem was not a provincial backwater. [It] was one of the main cities of the area," he said.
The City of David excavations, under the auspices of the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, are being funded by Americans Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman.
The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.