(JNS.org) A team of Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University has discovered a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard that’s been on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, which adds to knowledge about the First Temple period in Israel.
The shard —which dates back to 600 BC, before Judah’s Kingdom was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar—was uncovered in poor condition at the desert fortress of Arad in 1965.
Archaeologists and biblical scholars have studied a blessing noticeably inscribed on the shard’s front side extensively, but the new finding is on the back side.
“While its front side has been thoroughly studied, its back was considered blank,” said Arie Shaus, of Tel Aviv University’s department of applied mathematics, one of the principal researchers who studied the artifact.
Applying high-tech “multispectral imaging” – that would not have been available 50 years ago - to the backside of the shard revealed several previously unseen markings. The new inscription opens “with a request for wine,” said researchers, as well as “a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own.”
Additionally, using the multispectral imaging, researchers “were also able to significantly improve the reading of the front side, adding four ‘new’ lines,” said Barak Sober, one of the researchers on the team.
After deciphering 50 characters of the newly discovered text, which contains 17 words, researchers understood the previously hidden inscription to be “a continuation of the text on the front side,” explained Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, a researcher on the team.