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Early Hebrew Script at Lachish

Nature volume 141, page 1004 (04 June 1938) | Download Citation



ON the return to England of the members of the Marston-Wellcome Archaeological Expedition to Lachish at the close of excavations for the season 1937–38, further discoveries of examples of early Hebrew script on this site are reported (The Times, May 26). Three fragments of pottery have been found, which are inscribed in the Phenician-Hebrew script used in the famous Lachish letters, as well as scribings on the steps of the Lachish palace. The first of the three sherds shows five names of persons, followed by numerals, which probably represent quantities of wheat, oil or other commodity. The second sherd was found in a room with the remains of the pot from which it was broken, and is thought to be a receipt. The inscription begins With the phrase “In the ninth year”, serving to recall the fact that it was in the ninth year of the reign of Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it. As the house in which this sherd was found shows signs of having been burnt, it is thought possible that the receipt may have been written immediately before Nebuchadnezzar's second attack on Lachish in 588 B.C. The third inscription presents a certain similarity to the Lachish letters. It is very small, but there is writing on both sides, and it is evidently a letter, beginning "To my Lord". These inscriptions have been submitted to Prof. H. Torczyner, who was responsible for the decipherment of the series of eighteen letters discovered in 1935. The scribings on the face of one of the steps of the Palace, which the expedition is now beginning to excavate, are thought to have been the work of a schoolboy. With a rectangular drawing with lines across, and the picture of a lion, are the first five letters of the Phenician-Hebrew alphabet. These, reading from left to right, are in the same order as our alphabet, and are the earliest evidence for that order. They date from before Nebuchadnezzar's earlier destruction of Lachish in 597 B.C. From these discoveries the inference is drawn that the Phenician-Hebrew script was in general use in the kingdom of Judah and was being taught in the schools before the Captivity. After the Captivity the Assyrian-Hebrew script was employed.

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