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What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription?
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Four contenders vie for the honor of the oldest Hebrew inscription. To decide we must determine (1) whether they are in Hebrew script and/or language and (2) when they date. Not easy!
The first contender, the already famous Qeiyafa Ostracon, was discovered only in 2008 at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a site in the borderland of ancient Judah and Philistia.a The five-line ostracon (an ink inscription on a piece of broken pottery) is not well preserved and is subject to varying readings.
As the Qeiyafa Ostracon is a recent find, so the Gezer Calendar is an old one. It was discovered exactly a hundred years earlier, in 1908, by Irish archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister at Tel Gezer, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It describes agricultural activities over a 12-month period. Inscribed on a piece of soft limestone, it is sometimes supposed to be a schoolboy’s ditty.

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