The Clay Jug Inscription

3,000-year-old clay jug in Jerusalem

Image: 3,000 year-old inscription found on a clay jug in Jerusalem

Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa sent me a link to an article published in The Times of Israel which gives additional information about the inscription found on a 3,000-year-old clay jug discovered near the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

The inscription was found by a group of archaeologists from the Hebrew University. The team was headed by Dr. Eilat Mazar. The inscription on the clay jug is said to be the most ancient Hebrew inscription to be found by archaeologists in their excavation in Jerusalem.

According to Professor Galil, the eight-letter inscription, dated from the time of King Solomon, provides valuable information about the administrative system during the reign of Solomon.

Below is an excerpt from the article that was published in The Times of Israel:

According to Galil, the first intact letter of the inscription was actually the last letter of a longer word that got cut off and represented the date. The middle portion refers to the type of wine in the jug, a cheap variety. The final letter was also cut off from a longer word, and according to Galil listed the location from which the wine was sent.

Galil estimated that the carving was written in the middle of the tenth century BCE, after King Solomon built the First Temple, his palaces, and the surrounding walls that unified the three areas of the city – the Ophel area, the city of David, and the Temple Mount. These tremendous infrastructural projects contributed, Galil said, to the sudden need for copious quantities of poor-quality wine.

“This wine was not served on the table of King Solomon nor in the Temple,” Galil wrote. “Rather it was probably used by the many forced laborers in the building projects and the soldiers that guarded them. Food and drinks for these laborers were mainly held in the Ophel area.” His theory is shored up by pottery fragments found in Arad, Galil wrote.

Beyond that, Galil emphasized that the find lends support to claims of an organized bureaucratic system and provides evidence that writing was prevalent at the time.

“The ability to write and store the wine in a large vessel designated for this purpose, while noting the type of wine, the date it was received, and the place it was sent from, attests to the existence of an organized administration that collected taxes, recruited laborers, brought them to Jerusalem, and took care to give them food and water,” Galil said.

“Scribes that could write administrative texts could also write literary and historiographic texts, and this has very important implications for the study of the Bible and understanding the history of Israel in the biblical period.”

I want to thank Professor Galil for sending me this information and for his work in deciphering the inscription.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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