In an operation carried out by the The Israel Antiquities Authority special Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, a significant Papyrus document that has a reference to Jerusalem written in ancient Hebrew script has been seized from a band of antiquities robbers. This document was illegally plundered from a Judean Desert cave.
The document dates to the time of the First Temple (seventh century BCE) and is the earliest extra-biblical source that clearly indicates the name of the city of Jerusalem in Hebrew writing. Preserved on the papyrus (paper that was produced from the pith of the papyrus plant) are two lines of ancient Hebrew script and after a paleographic examination and C14 analysis the artifact was determined to date back to the seventh century BCE. As the script is mostly clearly legible the carefully considered reading of the text is:
מא]מת. המלך. מנערתה. נבלים. יין. ירשלמה.
[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Na?artah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima.
From the king’s maidservant, from Na?arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem
The rare scroll : photo credit Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Archeological dig in the Judean desert: photo credit Yuli Schwartz courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Accordingly, this is an original and rare shipping document from The First Temple period that indicates either the payment of taxes or the transfer of goods to Jerusalem which at that time was the capital city of the Kingdom of Judah. The shipment sender is clearly specified (the King’s maidservant), as is the name (Na?arat) which is the name of the settlement that it was sent from. It also shows the content of the jars to be wine and Jerusalem as the destination. The Bible shows that the kings Menashe, Amon or Josiah ruled Jerusalem in the second half of the seventh century BCE but it is not possible to be certain which of these Kings was the recipient of this shipment.
The scroll is reserved for conservation at the Dead Sea Scrolls laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority (Photo: Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Caves from outside: photo credit Guy Fitoussi, Israel Antiqities Authority
Of added interest is the unusual status of a woman being an administrator in the seventh century BCE in the Kingdom of Judah as well as the fact that only one other Papyrus document has been discovered in Israel that date to the First Temple period.