Epigraphy Skills Anyone? Deciphering Inscription from Mount Zion.

Pic from the dig website (www.digmountzion.com)

Pic from the dig website (www.digmountzion.com)

Update 2: Prof. Tabor left an important comment. Apparently the press reports were inaccurate (what a surprise) and Prof. Tabor confirms that he did not, nor did anyone else, working on the inscription state that it was in Aramaic. While judgment will be reserved for the final decipherment of the inscription, he thinks there is good reason to think it is Hebrew. (See comment)

UPDATE: It should be noted that Shimon Gibson may have reassessed his earlier opinion regarding the language of the inscription being Aramaic. Experts consulting on the matter believe that the inscription may contain the sacred name of G-d, as well as intended to be intentionally cryptic (according to Arutz Sheva). Also, some have noticed that the first line appears to have similar wording to Psalm 26:8 (J. Lauer and a comment from “Paqid Yermeyahu” from the JPost Article). I haven’t had a chance to take a look yet.

The inscription discovered at excavations of Mount Zion mentioned here before has caught the attention of Arutz Sheva. The article by Hana Levi Julian and Gil Ronen discuss the inscription discovered on a stone vessel, which is now being deciphered and might take up to six months. The article contain 2 out of the 10 lines, which can be seen here to the left, as well several pics of the excavations. The JPost reported on this inscription earlier this week: J’lem: Rare 2nd Temple inscription found. (Thanks to J. Lauer)

Since deciphering the inscription may take up to six months, any aspiring epigraphist can take a crack at these two lines and see what they come up with. One note: Shimon Gibson is under the impression that the inscription is Aramaic. If so, this would be a rare piece indeed, due to the fact that Aramaic inscriptions (to the best of my knowledge, I might be wrong) have yet to appear on stone vessels that are not ossuaries (e.g. the Aramaic inscription on the ossuary of Simon the Temple Builder). It is the opinion of the excavators that the vessel may have been used in rites of ritual purity at the Temple. Inscriptions dealing with rites at the temple that have been discovered are usually in Hebrew, e.g. the Korban Inscription and the “Place of Trumpeting” ashlar, which reads in Hebrew “to the place of trumpeting…” (pictured below, both are dated to the Herodian period)

Inscribed ashlar from the Temple

Inscribed ashlar from the Temple

Korban Inscription

Korban Inscription



2 thoughts on “Epigraphy Skills Anyone? Deciphering Inscription from Mount Zion.

  1. Thanks for this posting. As everyone realizes press reports can be notoriously inaccurate and such is the case with lots of the media reports out last week about the 10 line inscription on the stone cup found this summer at our Mt Zion dig. It is most unfortunate that it was headlined and otherwise described as written in Aramaic. In my Blog, where it was first reported publicly, I said it was written in an “archaic Jewish script,” deliberately choosing my words. In our official press release we said nothing about the inscription being in Aramaic. In fact, there is good reason to think it is most likely in Hebrew, as you indicate here. Until it is deciphered definitely we will reserve final judgment but no one working on the inscription, including Stephen Pfann, who is the epigrapher working with us at the Mt Zion dig, has said the inscription is Aramaic.

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