Monday, February 17, 2020

Even Seen the Hebrew Letter Samekh from the 12th Century BCE?

Coming out of a team of archaeologists led by Professor Yosef Garfinkel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology and Professor Michael Hasel at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, we now have a view of extensive ruins of a Bronze Age-era Canaanite temple dating to the 12th century BCE uncovered in National Park Tel Lachish. (Their academic article is here; I am working from the press release).

The layout of the temple is similar to other Canaanite temples in northern Israel, among them Shchem/Nablus, Megiddo and Hazor.  The front of the compound is marked by two columns and two towers leading to a large hall.  The inner sanctum has four supporting columns and several unhewn “standing stones”.

Credit: D. Rosenberg

In addition to archaeological remains, a trove of artifacts including, bronze cauldrons, 

Credit: T. Rogovski

Hathor-inspired jewellery, 

Credit: T. Rogovski

daggers and axe-heads adorned with bird images, scarabs, and a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name Ramses II.

Credit: C. Amit/IAA

Of particular interest was a pottery sherd engraved with ancient Canaanite script.  There, the letter “samek” appears, marked by an elongated vertical line crossed by three perpendicular shorter lines.  

Credit: T. Rogovski

This makes it the oldest known example of the letter and a unique specimen for the study of ancient alphabets. 

We can only hope more will be revealed of the Biblical narrative as it comes out of the ground.

^


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