According to The Times of Israel and Haaretz, Galil’s recent article in “New Studies on Jerusalem” (Hebrew) suggests that the central words of the inscription are yayin and halak. Yayin refers to wine, and halak specifies that this was a particularly low-quality variety.
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Galil also suggests that the fragmented opening word is part of a date and the cut-off final letter is the start of a word referring to the wine’s place of origin. If this is the case, the inscription would indicate a degree of bureaucracy and record keeping in tenth-century Jerusalem that runs counter to the so-called “Biblical minimalist” position.
So who drank this halak wine? Surely such low-quality drink was not for Solomon’s court. Instead, Gershon Galil proposes that the importation of cheap wine should be considered in light of Solomon’s building projects—monumental expansion in Jerusalem requires a large number of laborers, and a large number of laborers require cheap wine. Conscript labor in the tenth century was no walk in the park; Solomon’s workers could use a good (or, in this case, a halak-quality) drink.
To learn about the significance of this inscription, read “Precursor to Paleo-Hebrew Script Discovered in Jerusalem” in Bible History Daily.
For more ancient wine discoveries, read One of Civilization’s Oldest Wine Cellars?, 4200 B.C.E.: A Fine Vintage and Byzantine Wine Press Uncovered in Israel in Bible History Daily.