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Gezer Calendar

(575 words)

Author(s): Aḥituv, Shmuel
The Gezer Tablet, or ‘Calendar’, as it is commonly known, was found in the 1908 excavations of the dumps of the Israelite city and thus has no archaeological context. This small limestone tablet (7.2 × 11.1 cm) had been incised, defaced, and then overwritten with the seven lines of the so-called calendar. The text, most probably a writing exercise, is written in the Proto-Phoenician/Canaanite script, which, however, does not allow for unequivocal determination of its language. As the tablet was …

Samaria Ostraca

(810 words)

Author(s): Aḥituv, Shmuel
The Samaria ostraca are made up of two groups: the main group of 102 ostraca from excavations conducted by Harvard University (1908–1910) and a few ostraca from the Joint Expedition excavations (1931–1935). The ostraca of the Harvard excavations are temporary notations of shipments of wine and oil, which were discarded after the copying of their contents into more permanent ledgers. Their contents are limited principally to proper names: personal names, toponyms, and names of clans. On the basis of the site’s stratigraphy, the typology of the ceramics, and palaeography…

Lachish Ostraca

(948 words)

Author(s): Aḥituv, Shmuel
The Lachish Ostraca were found in the guard room in the gate of stratum II, which was destroyed by the Babylonians during the last days of the Kingdom of Judah, and is thus datable to ca. 586 B.C.E. The most interesting ostraca are the letters sent by the officer Hoshayahu, stationed on the road to Egypt, most probably at nearby Maresa, to his master Yaʾush at Lachish. Five ostraca (nos. 2, 6, 7, 8, 18) were written on sherds from the same vessel. The most dramatic letter is ostracon no. 4, which was interpreted as having been written after Azekah had already been conquered by the Babylonian army: ויד…

Arad Letters

(879 words)

Author(s): Aḥituv, Shmuel
The Arad letters were found during the excavations of the Judaean fort of Arad. The ostraca belong to the 8th–early 6th centuries B.C.E., most of them from the late 7th–early 6th centuries B.C.E. Many were addressed to a certain Elyašib by his superior. The letters consist mainly of orders to issue rations of bread, wine, and oil. These orders have no blessing formulas, but begin with the address אל אלישב ʾl ʾlyšb ‘to ʾElyašib’, and proceed with orders, such as ועת תן w-ʿt tn ‘and now, give’ (3.1–2), or שלח šlḥ ‘send’ (5.1–2; 6.1–2). However, the use of imperatives in this way should…