Bible Artifacts Found Outside the Trench: The Moabite Stone

Moabite King Mesha’s victory stela

The Importance of Bible Artifacts Found Outside the Trench: The Moabite Stone

The Mesha Stele, or Moabite Stone, is one of many unprovenanced Biblical artifacts found by Bedouin in the process of archaeological looting. Photo: Les Monuments.

A product of archaeological looting, the Mesha Stele, or Moabite Stone, provides another instance of the value of unprovenanced Biblical artifacts, that is, Bible artifacts found outside of a professional excavation. Although the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) have strict policies regarding the publication of articles and the presentation of papers about unprovenanced objects and Biblical artifacts in an attempt to curb archaeological looting and forgery of Bible artifacts found in Israel and Jordan, other scholars believe that Biblical artifacts found without a stratified context still merit scholarly study.

This 3-foot-high black basalt Moabite Stone was first brought to the attention of scholars in 1868 by Bedouin living east of the Jordan River and just north of the Arnon River. After several failed negotiations to purchase it, the Mesha Stele was broken into dozens of pieces and scattered among the Bedouin. In the 1870s several of the fragments were recovered by scholars and reconstructed—comprising only two-thirds of the original Moabite Stone. A paper imprint (called a squeeze) that had been taken of the intact inscription allowed scholars to fill in the missing text.*

Are several famous objects actually fakes? How can they be tested? And should they even be studied by scholars? Read about a BAS conference held in Jerusalem in which leading scholars assessed a number of well-known artifacts that had in recent years been labeled as forgeries in the FREE eBook Real or Fake? A Special Report.

Even in its fragmentary condition, the 34 lines of Phoenician script (also called paleo-Hebrew) on the Mesha Stela constituted the longest monumental inscription on a Bible artifact found in Palestine, making the Mesha Stele a key example of the value of Biblical artifacts found outside professional excavations, often via archaeological looting. The inscription, which dates to the ninth century B.C.E., is a victory stela set up to commemorate the triumph of the rebellious Moabite vassal king Mesha over the Israelite king and his armies (thus the names Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone). The Bible records a similar episode in 2 Kings 3, but not surprisingly, each account is much more flattering to its own author than the other.

The Mesha Stele, one of the most valuable Biblical artifacts found due to archaeological looting, also helped scholars clarify the tribal land allotments among the northern tribes of Israel.



* See Siegfried H. Horn,“Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces,Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1986.


More on the Paleo-Hebrew script:

Precursor to Paleo-Hebrew Script Discovered in Jerusalem

Computer Program Learning to Read Paleo-Hebrew Letters

How Ancient Taxes Were Collected Under King Manasseh


More Bible artifacts found outside the trench:

Magic Incantation Bowls

Israelite Clay Bullae

House Shrines

The Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery

The Amarna Tablets


Posted in Artifacts and the Bible, Inscriptions.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Add Your Comments

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  • Yamiyn says

    Was the name YAHWEH found on the moabite stone?

  • Yamiyn says

    If its genuine it should be very informative!

  • Darrell says

    I would love to read a good book (article?) about the items found inside and/or out “the trench” and their effect on biblical archeology. Perhaps a good title would be “artiFACTS and artiFICTION” ?

  • Some HTML is OK

    or, reply to this post via trackback.

Send this to a friend

Hello! Your friend thought you might be interested in reading this post from
Bible Artifacts Found Outside the Trench: The Moabite Stone!
Here is the link:
Enter Your Log In Credentials...

Change Password