At the intersection of archaeology and politics, a new artifact has been found beneath the city of Jerusalem on which the name of “Jerusalem” is spelled out in Hebrew letters.
The stone column on was discovered near the city’s International Convention Center, Fox News reported.
The stone dates from the first century A.D., known in Jewish history as the Second Temple Period.
“First and Second Temple period inscriptions mentioning Jerusalem are quite rare,” said a statement from Dr. Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem regional archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University. “But even more unique is the complete spelling of the name as we know it today, which usually appears in the shorthand version.”
“This is the only stone inscription of the Second Temple period known where the full spelling appears. This spelling is only known in one other instance, on a coin of the Great Revolt against the Romans (66-70 CE),” the statement added.
Written in Aramaic, the language most commonly used in Jerusalem at the time, the inscription reads: “Hananiah son of Dodalos of Jerusalem.”
— James F. McGrath (@ReligionProf) October 13, 2018
In a news release from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dudy Mevorach, senior curator of archaeology at the Israel Museum, speculated that the inscription refers to an artist or potter.
“The archaeological context of the inscription does not allow us to determine where it was originally displayed, or who Hananiah son of Dodalos was. But it is likely that he was an artist-potter, the son of an artist-potter, who adopted a name from the Greek mythological realm, following Daedalus, the infamous artist,” Mevorach said.
He noted that it was a sign of Jerusalem’s importance that the man added the city.
“It is interesting that he decided to add his origin from nearby Jerusalem to his family name,” Mevorach said.
Danit Levy of the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the area in which the stone was found was “the largest ancient pottery production site in the region of Jerusalem,” according to Smithsonian.com.
The site was used by the Jewish people prior to the failed revolt against Rome, and by the Roman army afterward, Levy said.
Officials said the find is of major importance in a city where there are competing claims to ownership.
“As a resident of Jerusalem, I am extremely excited to read this inscription, written 2,000 years ago, especially when I think that this inscription will be accessible to every child that can read and uses the same script used two millennia ago,” said Ido Bruno, Director of the Israel Museum, in a statement on the museum’s website.
Archaeology that shows patterns of ancient Jewish settlement in and around Jerusalem is one strand on the context of debates over the city’s current status, in which Israel claims ownership.
“The Jewish people have in fact lived in their land of Israel for more than 3.000 years and took possession of the city of Jerusalem itself almost exactly 3,000 years ago. They have lived there continuously, even though they have not always ruled over their own land,” wrote Jeremiah Johnson and Craig Evans in an Op-Ed for Fox News in December, after the Trump administration announced it planned to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Therefore, Israel’s legitimate claims to the land and to the city of Jerusalem itself should be accepted – regardless of your religious beliefs, or even if you have no belief whatsoever in any religion,” they wrote.
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