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A team of researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Archaeological Institute, and the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has identified writing on a shard of Late Bronze Age (15th century BC) pottery, unearthed in 2018 in the archaeological enclave of Lachish, as the oldest found in Israel.

In their paper published in the journal Antiquity (Cambridge University Press), the group describes their study of the writing and what they learned about it.

In 2018, a team of archaeologists working on an archaeological dig in Lachish in south-central Israel found a pottery shard with some writing on it, but it was not until recently that the study of the text on it was carried out.


Research Shows That Ancient Script Could Fill Massive Gap In History

via Haaretz

The research work showed that the fragment was approximately 3,500 years old, a time when the enclave where it was found was part of a Canaanite center, which in turn was part of a city called Lachish, a city mentioned in the Bible, and which was destroyed by the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. After this episode, it was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again in the 7th century BC.

The finding of the ostracon is considered significant because it helps to fill a gap between the earliest evidence of writing and the development of Semitic alphabets in the area. The researchers point out that previous studies have shown that early alphabets existed in the area as early as the 19th century B.C., but then are not mentioned in historical records until the 13th or 12th centuries; this new script represents an alphabet among them.

That is why the importance of this discovery, made at the Tel Lachish site, is since it allows us to have certainty about the historical context in which the alphabetic writing originated. “They call it the missing link because it fills an empty space between the oldest specimens of the 13th and 19th centuries, filling six centuries without certainties,” added the Tel Aviv University specialist.