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60-Second Science

Document Found Older Than Dead Sea Scrolls

Archaeologists discovered a pottery shard inscribed with Hebrew text written a thousand years earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cynthia Graber reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

One of the most important archaeological finds in history was the Dead Sea Scrolls. These documents include some of the earliest written records of the Bible. Now archaeologists say they've found what they claim is the most significant archaeological discovery in Israel since those documents. They found a shard of pottery that's about 3,000 years old—a thousand years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. This would have been about the time of the legendary King David.

Pottery inscribed with ink is called an ostracon. This ostracon was found in the oldest Judean city unearthed to date. Archaeologists say the city is near where David killed Goliath. It's south of current-day Beit Shemesh. The site has been excavated only since June of this year. Archaeologists say what they uncover at this site will help us learn more about life at the time of David.

The ostracon has five lines of text in black ink. It's written in Hebrew, making it the earliest Hebrew text ever found. Researchers have deciphered some of the words, including slave, judge and king. So it could be part of a legal code that might provide insight into early Hebrew civilization.

—Cynthia Graber 

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