As promised, here is a short update on some of the things that were said at the meeting at the Hebrew University, in the special session on the Kh. Qeiyafa inscription.
Do note – in the meeting proceedings, which were sold at the beginning of the meeting in the morning (and I came too late to buy it), there are full articles by the various people mentioned below. Note, the proceedings are in Hebrew, and can be purchased from the IAA.
First, Sa’ar Ganor, Yossi Garfinkel’s partner at the Qeiyafah excavations, presented an update on the finds from the site, including the last season. He showed slides of the finds from the various areas, including the impressive casemate wall, two gates, and other features. Consistently, throughout the site, there is an early Iron Age IIA (or possibly, late Iron I) level, which is often covered by a Hellenistic level. Save for some Byzantine material in the middle of the site, there are no other stratified materials from other periods (absolutely no Iron IIb-c). Based on 14C dating (indicated as well from comparative pottery typology) they date the Iron Age level to the late 11th/early 10th cent. BCE. Finally, he reiterated their suggestion to ID the site as Shaarayim, mentioned in the Bible in the vicinity of Socho and Azekah.
If I may add (AMM), without a doubt (from having personally seen the finds from the most recent seasons and having visited the site both in this and last season), the Iron Age level dates to the late Iron I/early Iron IIA (late 11th/early 10th cent.).
Following this presentation, Hagai Misgav presented his reading of the inscription. Admitting that it is VERY hard to read, he suggests the following (hold your seats…):
אל תעש [ ] ועבד א[ת]
שפט בואלמ [ ]אל?ט
א[ ]מ ונקמ יסד מלכ ג[ת]?/פ[?]
סרנ? ע[…] מג/דרת
Now, Haggai admits that there are many problems and questions, but points out several things:
1) The language is Hebrew (not Phoenician) based on appearance of terms such as אל תעש
2) In his opinion, there is some narrative here
3) He notes the appearance of mlk (king), shofet (judge), eved (servant/slave), perhaps seren (philistine king)
4) He strongly believes (as I do) that the so-called “Proto-Canaanite” script (which he prefers to call Canaanite, I prefer to call “Archaic Alphabetic” [see our BASOR article on the Safi inscription]), continues into the 9th cent., particularly in southern Canaan, parallel to the beginning of the use of the early Phoenician script (such as in the Zayit inscription).
While I have to caution that this reading is a suggestion, it is really quite astounding! There is mention of different titles, some names, perhaps deities (ba’al). Even more interesting, perhaps mention of “YSD, king of Gath” (note – YSD is one of the kings of Ekron in the Ekron royal inscription).
And I won’t even mention some of the more “crazy” reconstructions that raced thru my head when seeing this reading.
Following Hagai’s talk, there were 3 respondents:
1) Ada Yardeni spoke, providing a slightly different reading, although agreeing with many (if not most) of Hagai’s readings. In fact, she reads shofet twice at the beginning and end of line 2. She had various comments on various words and readings. She believes that it may be a draft for a monumental inscription.
2) Aaron Demsky argued that this is sort of a lexical list of various titles in society, king, god, judge, etc., and compares it to such lists in other cultures. Believes that it is a scribal exercize.
3) Shmuel Ahituv was more critical of Hagai’s readings, and for example, does not accept “seren”.
The session ended with Hagai briefly replying to some of the comments.
All told, Hagai should be applauded for working so hard and providing a very interesting reading of this text. While I’m sure there will be many opinions about it, without a doubt, whatever the text means (or does not mean…), the location, the date, the context of the site, and the various words that can be read, provide VERY important new data on the lron I/Iron IIA transition in Judah and the Shephelah, and definitely require many to rethink some very strongly held opinions (and this, for people on both sides of the “fence”).
Personally, as a “Gittite”, the site and the inscription are VERY interesting and important! The vicinity of the site, and perhaps, mention of a king of Gath and other aspects in the inscription, turn this into a very critical comparison to the situation at Gath during this phase.
I won’t go in to all the various issues springing up from this inscription, from a wide variety of topics. I’m sure that it will provide much discussion and debate in the years to come!
Wow – it is simply astounding what turns up!
Clearly, what is required now is to find an inscription from Gath which is the reply that was sent out regarding the Qeiyafa inscription…