July 15, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

Photo by Sasson Tiram.
Prof. Wayne Horowitz of Hebrew University displays the oldest written record ever found in Jerusalem.
A tiny clay fragment dating from the 14th century BCE is the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem, say researchers at the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem. Discovered in excavations outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the find is believed to be part of a tablet from a royal archive.

According to the researchers, it testifies to the importance of Jerusalem as a major city in the Late Bronze Age (the second half of the century BCE), long before its conquest by King David.

At .79 x 1.10 inches in size and .39 inches thick, the fragment contains cuneiform symbols in ancient Akkadian (the lingua franca of that era).

The script is of a very high level, which testifies to the fact that it was written by a highly-skilled scribe who in all likelihood prepared tablets for the royal household of the time, says Prof. Wayne Horowitz , a scholar of Assyriology at HU.

Tablets with diplomatic messages were routinely exchanged between kings in the ancient Near East, and Horowitz believes that that it is likely that the fragment was part of such a “royal missive.”

This latest find predates by about 600 years the previously most ancient known written record, a tablet from the 8th century BCE found in the City of David area, which is in a museum in Istanbul.

Details of the discovery appear in the current issue of the Israel Exploration Journal.

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