Oldest written document ever found in J'lemBy BEN HARTMAN
The tiny fragment is only 2 cm. by 2.8 cm. in surface area and 1 cm. thick and appears to have once been part of a larger tablet. Researchers say the ancient fragment testifies to Jerusalem’s importance as a major city late in the Bronze Age, long before it was conquered by King David.
The minuscule fragment contains Akkadian words written in ancient cuneiform symbols. Researchers say that while the symbols appear to be insignificant, containing simply the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do,” and “later,” the high quality of the writing indicates that it was written by a highly skilled scribe. Such a revelation would mean that the piece was likely written for tablets that were part of a royal household.
The find was uncovered in a fill taken from the Ophel area, which lies between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David. The Ophel digs are being carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology, through funding from US donors Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York.
According to Mazar, the fragment was discovered over a month and a half ago during wet sifting of the Ophel excavations, but was only released to the press this week because researchers wanted to wait until analysis of the piece was complete so as to be absolutely certain of the details of the find.