'Invisible' Hebrew text on ancient pottery sheds new light on life in the Kingdom of Judah

(Wikimedia Commons/Ian Scott)Gates of the Israelite Fortress at Arad.

Archaeologists have reportedly found Hebrew inscriptions on a 2,600-year-old piece of pottery that was previously invisible to the naked eye.

According to Science Daily, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) used advanced imaging technology to decipher the inscription on the back of a pottery shard that has been on display at The Israel Museum for more than 50 years.

The ink-inscribed pottery shard, also called ostracon, was found in poor condition in 1965 at the desert fortress of Arad, in what was once known as the Kingdom of Judah. Ostracon are often poorly preserved, and the inscription often fades rapidly once they are unearthed.

The shard dates back to 600 B.C., towards the final years of the kingdom before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

While the front side, where lines of text are visible, has been extensively studied, the reverse has been previously considered blank. Using multispectral imaging, the archaeologists discovered three new lines of text on the supposedly blank side, and four "new" lines appeared on the front.

International Business Times reported that the text on the front appears to detail a transaction between a man called Elyashiv, the quartermaster of the Arad fortress, and another one called Ḥananyahu, who is believed to be from Beer Sheba.

In the message, the two men exchanged salutations and blessings and made requests for commodities such as silver, wine and oil.

"The new inscription begins with a request for wine, as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own," said Arie Shaus of the TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics.

"It concludes with a request for the provision of a certain commodity to an unnamed person, and a note regarding a 'bath,' an ancient measurement of wine carried by a man named Ge'alyahu," he added.

Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin of TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics, one of the principal investigators of the study, said that the discovery highlights the importance of multispectral imaging to the documentation of the pottery shards.

She noted that the newly-discovered texts also provide an additional source for linguistic studies of ancient Hebrew and other Semitic languages.

"Because there are not so many inscriptions from this time period, every new line or words discovered can help linguists and be added to our dictionaries. Every letter is important, and using our new analysis, we building upon our knowledge to learn more about these people," she said.

Go to the Home Page

Top News

Inside Christian Times