Register for updates

 
 

Archaeology
RSS Feed
Multispectral Imaging Reveals Ancient Hebrew Inscription Undetected for Over 50 Years
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM

Military correspondence from the First Temple period discovered on reverse side of well-studied artifact at The Israel Museum, TAU researchers say

Using advanced imaging technology, Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered a hitherto invisible inscription on the back of a pottery shard that has been on display at The Israel Museum for more than 50 years.

The ostracon (ink-inscribed pottery shard) was first found in poor condition in 1965 at the desert fortress of Arad. It dates back to ca. 600 BCE, the eve of the kingdom of Judah's destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. The inscription on its front side, opening with a blessing by Yahweh, discusses money transfers and has been studied by archaeologists and biblical scholars alike.

"While its front side has been thoroughly studied, its back was considered blank," said Arie Shaus of TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics, one of the principal investigators of the study published today in PLOS ONE. The study can be found at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178400.

"Using multispectral imaging to acquire a set of images, Michael Cordonsky of TAU's School of Physics noticed several marks on the ostracon's reverse side. To our surprise, three new lines of text were revealed," Shaus said.

The researchers were able to decipher 50 characters, comprising 17 words, on the back of the ostracon. "The content of the reverse side implies it is a continuation of the text on the front side," said Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin of TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics, another principal investigator of the study.

The multidisciplinary research was conducted by Faigenbaum-Golovin, Shaus, and Barak Sober, all doctoral students in TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics, and by Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of TAU's Department of Archaeology. Additional collaborators include Prof. David Levin and Prof. Eli Turkel of TAU's Department of Applied Mathematics, Prof. Benjamin Sass of TAU's Department of Archaeology, as well as Michael Cordonsky and Prof. Murray Moinester of TAU's School of Physics. The research team was co-led by Prof. Eli Piasetzky of TAU's School of Physics and Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU's Department of Archaeology.

"Using multispectral imaging, we were also able to significantly improve the reading of the front side, adding four 'new' lines," said Sober.

A request for more wine

"Tel Arad was a military outpost — a fortress at the southern border of the kingdom of Judah — and was populated by 20 to 30 soldiers," said Dr. Mendel-Geberovich. "Most of the ostraca unearthed at Arad are dated to a short time span during the last stage of the fortress's history, on the eve of the kingdom's destruction in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar. Many of these inscriptions are addressed to Elyashiv, the quartermaster of the fortress. They deal with the logistics of the outpost, such as the supply of flour, wine, and oil to subordinate units."

"The new inscription begins with a request for wine, as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own," said Shaus. "It concludes with a request for the provision of a certain commodity to an unnamed person, and a note regarding a 'bath,' an ancient measurement of wine carried by a man named Ge'alyahu."

"The newly revealed inscription features an administrative text, like most of the Arad inscriptions," said Dr. Mendel-Geberovich. "Its importance lies in the fact that each new line, word, and even a single sign is a precious addition to what we know about the First Temple period."

"On a larger scale, our discovery stresses the importance of multispectral imaging to the documentation of ostraca," said Faigenbaum-Golovin. "It's daunting to think how many inscriptions, invisible to the naked eye, have been disposed of during excavations."

"This is ongoing research," concluded Sober. "We have at our disposal several additional alterations and expansions of known First Temple-period ostraca. Hence, the future may hold additional surprises."




Latest News

The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at TAU to Open July 2018

New museum displays thousands of items that tell the story of biodiversity in Israel and the Middle East.

Modern Laser Science Brightened by 2,300-Year-Old Technology

Archimedes' screw inspires TAU researchers to devise a novel particle-trapping laser beam.

Neuronal Activity Sheds Light on the Origin of Consciousness

Electrodes in patients with epilepsy register neuronal activity underlying emergence of conscious experience, TAU researchers say.

Philadelphia Orchestra Performs with TAU Students, Israel Philharmonic in Packed Concert

Orchestra's trip to Israel is the third visit to the country by a major U.S. symphony orchestra.

TAU Student Film Wows at Cannes Film Festival

Rubber Dolphin written and directed by Steve Tisch School of Film and Television graduate.

Changes to Specific MicroRNA Involved in Development of Lou Gehrig's Disease

Mechanism involving specific microRNA and muscle molecules plays role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, TAU researchers say.

Why Diversity Programs Promoting Women and Minorities in Management Fail

Current tools that "force-feed" diversity engender bias and rebellion, TAU and Harvard University researchers say.

Moderate Decline in Violent Attacks Against Jews, But Attacks Are Becoming More Brutal

European Jews harbor increasingly "grave concerns for their security," annual TAU Kantor Center study reports.

TAU Announces Early-Stage Venture Fund to Invest in Student Innovation

TAU Ventures similar to funds at universities such as MIT, UC Berkeley and Stanford.

How Advanced Nanotechnology Can Improve Cancer Care

TAU, Harvard University researchers discuss untapped potential of targeted nanocarriers to revolutionize cancer therapy.

contentSecondary
c

© 2018 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University