2,000-Year-Old Jerusalem Inscription Bears City’s Name

Bible and archaeology news

jerusalem-inscription-stone

This Jerusalem inscription dating to the first century B.C.E. spells the city’s name as Yerushalayim. Photo: Danit Levy, Israel Antiquities Authority.

For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed a Second Temple period stone inscription that spells the name Jerusalem as Yerushalayim (as it’s spelled in Hebrew today), rather than Yerushalem or Shalem. The inscription, dating to the first century B.C.E., reads:

Hananiah son of
Dudolos
of Jerusalem

The Jerusalem inscription, carved on a limestone column drum, was uncovered during excavations led by Danit Levy on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Binyanei Ha’Uma, a massive convention center in Jerusalem. The IAA press release announcing the discovery describes the inscription as Aramaic but written with Hebrew letters.

“First and Second Temple period inscriptions mentioning Jerusalem are quite rare. But even more unique is the complete spelling of the name as we know it today, which usually appears in the shorthand version,” explained Dr. Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist for the IAA, and Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University, in an IAA press release. “This is the only stone inscription of the Second Temple period known where the full spelling appears.”

Israel Museum curators have called “Gabriel’s Revelation” the most important document found in the area since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Read the original English publication of “Gabriel’s Revelation” by Ada Yardeni along with Israel Knohl's article that made scholars around the world reconsider links between ancient Jewish and Christian messianism in the free eBook Gabriel’s Revelation.

In the Times of Israel, Dr. Alexey Yuditsky of the Academy of the Hebrew Language told reporter Amanda Borschel-Dan that the inscription is more likely Hebrew than Aramaic, although both were used interchangeably during this time period. According to Yuditsky, the spelling Yerushalayim reflects a Hebrew pronunciation, while an Aramaic one would have spelled the name Yerushalem.

jerusalem-inscription-dig

IAA excavation director Danit Levy with the Jerusalem inscription in situ. Photo: Yoli Shwartz, IAA.

The column drum on which the Jerusalem inscription was written had been re-used in a structure occupied by the Tenth Roman Legion. While the inscription doesn’t provide information on Hananiah’s occupation, researchers believe he was an artist-potter. The IAA has been excavating in Binyanei Ha’Uma for years, gradually revealing a pottery production center in operation from the time of the Hasmoneans to the Late Roman period.

“This is the largest ancient pottery production site in the region of Jerusalem,” said excavation director Danit Levy.

The Jerusalem inscription will be on display at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, along with other artifacts unearthed in the city.

jerusalem-inscription-exhibit

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem exhibit featuring the Jerusalem inscription and other ancient discoveries. Photo: Laura Lachman, Courtesy of the Israel Museum.

Israel Museum curators have called “Gabriel’s Revelation” the most important document found in the area since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Read the original English publication of “Gabriel’s Revelation” by Ada Yardeni along with Israel Knohl's article that made scholars around the world reconsider links between ancient Jewish and Christian messianism in the free eBook Gabriel’s Revelation.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Precursor to Paleo-Hebrew Script Discovered in Jerusalem

The King of Judah, Jars of Wine, and the City of Jerusalem by Christopher Rollston

Three Takes on the Oldest Hebrew Inscription

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  • Bill says

    For Robin Ngo: As something to check out, Codex D (Bezae) at Luke 24:13 in the original hand has a reading that “may” reflect this spelling of Jerusalem: “IEROUSALEMEM”. This might be worth taking a look at in regard to this artifact’s spelling of Jerusalem. We have noted the D* reading as an error in our critical apparatus for the Greek NT, but now I’ll have to rethink that designation based on this find. Thanks for your article.

    • Bill says

      Just to clarify, the first E in Codex Bezae is an episilon and the last two are etas, so the reading could be better represented as far as the Greek by “IEROUSALHMHM,” but the reading as I posted it will help avoid confusion perhaps with the use of H for eta.

  • JULIAN L. says

    Thank you for your service and dedication to finding the whole truth that the Word of God presented to all that believe in His Word..

  • Nachum says

    *but* Jerusalem’s main convention center.

  • Nachum says

    A few corrections:

    -As the word “son of” is written with the Aramaic “bar” rather than the Hebrew “ben,” it’s hard to see how this could be said to be Hebrew. The mem for “from” may indicate partial Hebrew.

    -The modern Hebrew alphabet- which this is- *is* the Aramaic alphabet. So that line is confusing at best.

    -“Yerushalem” is not shorthand nor is it Aramaic. It is the spelling used in virtually all cases throughout the Hebrew Bible. “Yerushalayim” appears only in a handful of cases, mostly in later books.

    -Binyanei HaUma is not a neighborhood by Jerusalem’s main convention center. Excavations have been going on inside and around it for years- if you go into the basement you can see the Roman pottery factory recreated.


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