CBNNews.com - BET SHEMESH, Israel - Israeli scholars say the discovery of five lines of ancient Hebrew text is the nation's most exciting archaeological find since the Dead Sea Scrolls, which it predates by a millennium.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Yosef Garfinkel, leading the excavation where the shard was discovered, said the site is the only one in Israel where archaeologists can put the life of King David in its proper historical context.
"The chronology and geography of the Elah Fortress at Khirbet Qeiyafa create a unique meeting point between the history, historiography and origins of the early Davidic Kingdom," Professor Garfinkel said.
The sophisticated construction of the 10th century fortress fits the narrative in the Old Testament books of Samuel and Chronicles, confirming that this was the location of ancient Judea's central government.
The Elah Fortress, built along the border between the Kingdom of Judah and Philistia, served as a strategic point overlooking the main road to Philistia and the coastal plain of Judea.
The biblical narratives of the Israelites' battles with the Philistines took place nearby, including the confrontation between David and Goliath in the Elah Valley.
Archaeologists estimate that 200,000 tons of hewn rock were used in constructing the fortification, only 4 percent of which has been excavated to date.
"This is the oldest Judean city uncovered to date, and its very construction has unprecedented implications in our understanding of this era," he said.
The pottery shard (ostracon), whose five rows of text are divided by black lines, is written in Proto-Canaanite script. A volunteer discovered the shard along the perimeter of the Elah Fortress.
Carbon-14 dating by Oxford University of organic material found near the shard reveals that the inscription was written some 3,000 years ago.
Scholars say it will take months to fully translate the text, but preliminary findings reveal the root of such words as king, judge, and slave.
Dr. Hagai Misgav, a Hebrew University scholar of ancient Hebrew script, said the shard's five lines are part of a specific message written by a trained scribe.
For more information about the excavation, see Foundation Stone and Elah Fortress.
*Originally posted November 2, 2008.