A Rare Document Mentioning the Name of Jerusalem from the Time of the First Temple was Exposed

A Rare Document Mentioning the Name of Jerusalem from the Time of the First Temple was Exposed

In a complex enforcement operation, inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority seized a papyrus that includes the earliest reference to Jerusalem in an extra-biblical document, which is written in ancient Hebrew script and dates to the time of the Kingdom of Judah

Photo: Shai Halevi, the Israel Antiquities Authority.


A rare and important findwas exposed in an enforcement operation initiated by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery: a document written on papyrus and dating to the time of the First Temple (seventh century BCE) in which the name of the city of Jerusalem is clearly indicated. This is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing.

The document, which was illicitly plundered from one of the Judean Desert caves by a band of antiquities robbers and was seized in a complex operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

Two lines of ancient Hebrew script were preserved on the document that is made of papyrus (paper produced from the pith of the papyrus plant). A paleographic examination of the letters and a C14analysis determined that the artifact should be dated to the seventh century BCE – to the end of the First Temple period. Most of the letters are clearly legible, and the proposed reading of the text appears as follows:

[מא]מת. המלך. מנערתה. נבלים. יין. ירשלמה.

[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Naʽartah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima.

From the king’s maidservant, from Naʽarat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem

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Photo: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

 

This is a rare and original shipping document from the time of the First Temple, indicating the payment of taxes or transfer of goods to storehouses in Jerusalem, the capital city of the kingdom at this time. The document specifies the status of the sender of the shipment (the king’s maidservant), the name of the settlement from which the shipment was dispatched (Naʽarat), the contents of the vessels (wine), their number or amount (jars) and their destination (Jerusalem). Naʽartah, which is mentioned in the text, is the same Naʽarat that is referred to in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: “And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naʽarat, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan”.  

 

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organized administration in the Kingdom of Judah. It underscores the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the second half of the seventh century BCE. According to the Bible, the kings Menashe, Amon, or Josiah ruled in Jerusalem at this time; however, it is not possible to know for certain which of the kings of Jerusalem was the recipient of the shipment of wine”. 

 

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Photo by: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

 

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