WOW: Ancient papyrus, older than Dead Sea Scrolls, mentions 'Jerusalem'

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Volunteers with the Israeli Antique Authority work inside the Cave of the Skulls, an excavation site in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, Israel June 1, 2016. Israeli authorities announced the discovery of a papyrus with the name of Jerusalem on it, bolstering ancient Hebrew claims to the land. | REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Christian Examiner) – A new archaeological discovery in Israel – an ancient papyrus – features the oldest known reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew.

The papyrus, apparently looted from a cave in the Judean Desert some number of years ago, was recently acquired through a private transaction and handed over to researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority for radiocarbon dating.

It turned out to be 2,700 years old, which dates the papyrus to the time just after the first Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem. It is one of only three papyri dated from the same period and predates the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls by centuries, the Times of Israel reported.

The papyrus – 4.3 inches by 1 inch – has two lines of paleo-Hebrew script on it. It apparently was meant to accompany two new wineskins shipped to the capital established by David during his reign. It reads:

"From the female servant of the king, from Naharata, two wineskins to Jerusalem."

Naharata was located near Jericho.

According to the Times of Israel, the fact that the address was written on expensive papyrus instead of cheaper clay tablets known as "ostraca" may mean that the wineskins were sent to the king by a wealthy Israelite woman.

Biblical scholar Shmuel Ahituv also said the spelling of the name of Jerusalem is significant. It is spelled "Yerushalem," as is commonly found in ancient biblical texts, and not "Yerushalayim," as it is pronounced in modern Hebrew.

The new discovery also lines up with other ancient inscriptions in paleo-Hebrew found on pottery. Two other Hebrew inscriptions from before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. also were discovered. The Marzeah Papyrus, believed to be from the mid-7th century B.C. and a palimpsest from Qumran.

A palimpsest is a page or a piece of a scroll that has been washed of ink to be reused for another purpose.