Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the 14th Century Jerusalem Archive Fragment

I'm just back from vacation in New Hampshire where I was not doing biblical blogs, so this is dated news, but it is pretty exciting to hear of a 14th century BCE fragment of a written tablet being found in Jerusalem! This is by far the oldest piece of writting ever found in Jerusalem, dating long before the Israelite settlement and the later capture of Jerusalem by David.

The physical make up of the clay fragment and the quality of its script make it pretty clear that the tablet was part of a royal archive in Jerusalem containing copies of messages from the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh in Egypt (perhaps to Pharaoh Akhenaten, but perhaps to a ruler from a somewhat earlier or later time).

The finding of this Jerusalem fragment attests to the importance of Jerusalem during the Late Bronze Age, providing physical evidence countering those minimalist sholars who have argued that Jerusalem was not actually a major center during the period at issue.

For a blog-post discussion of the historical context of the Jerusalem fragment and its relation to the Amarna correspondence by Prof. Seth Sanders of Trinity College, CT, click here.

For another blog-post by Sanders arguing that the scribe of the Jerusalem fragment was different from the authors of the Amarna letters from Jerusalem to Egypt, click here. Sanders conclusion in his argument in this post is that "more than one Babylonian dialect [was clearly] being written [in Jerusalem] during the Late Bronze Age."


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