What may be the oldest known Hebrew text, found on a hilltop above the valley where David is said to have battled Goliath, could lend historical support to some Bible stories, archaeologists say.
The 3,000-year-old pottery shard with five lines of text was found during excavations of the Elah Fortress, the oldest known Biblical-period fortress that dates to the 10th century B.C.
It is the most important archaeological discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to lead researcher Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology.
His team believes the text may provide evidence for a real-life King David and his vast kingdom, the existence of which has been long doubted by scholars.
Carbon-14 dating of olive pits found at the archaeological site, as well as analysis of pottery remains, also place the text to between 1000 and 975 B.C., the time King David, head of the Kingdom of Israel, would have lived.
"This means that historical knowledge of King David could pass from generation to generation in writing—and not just as oral tradition."
The exact nature of the text— believed to be Hebrew written in Proto-Canaanite script, a type of early alphabet—has yet to be determined, but a number of root words have already been translated, including "judge," "slave," and "king."
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This discovery confirms that scribes recorded information and that royal archives existed in David's realm. This is the raw material that enabled the development of the Genesis narratives and the story of Ruth. The seals and ostracon of that period reveal that names were spelled differently depending of the source of the writing. Archaeologists acknowledge that the Holy Name and theophoric elements were spelled one way in the northern populations and another way among the southern populations like the Dedanites.
David is said to have ruled a territory that extended from the Nile River to the Euphrates. This is but a small portion of the older Afro-Asiatic Dominion that extended from the Atlantic coast of modern Nigeria to the Indus River Valley. David may have sought to extend his political influence into the Nile Valley through the house of Sheba to which he was related. Scribal adaptation of Nilotic and Thamudic scripts would have served to that end.