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King’s 3,000-Year-Old Clay Tablet Found by Jerusalem Excavators

Clay Tablet
A clay tablet covered with cuneiform script, discovered in a Jerusalem excavation. Archaeologists say it is a 3,000-year-old copy of a letter that Canaanite king Abdi-Heba wrote to the king of Egypt. Photographer: Meidad Suchowolski/Israel Antiquities Authority via Bloomberg

Israeli archaeologists have discovered part of a 3,000-year-old clay tablet covered with cuneiform script that they say is the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.

The thumb-sized fragment, which is described as an archived copy of an Accadian-language letter that Canaanite King Abdi-Heba wrote to the king of Egypt, was placed on display today at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was found in excavations of a site from the First Temple period led by Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar.

The discovery closes a small blank “patch on the map of knowledge of Jerusalem,” Ronny Reich, a senior Israel Antiquities Authority archeologist, said in a speech after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat opened a visitors center at the site.

Mazar’s work at the Ophel Wall site has been focused on finding evidence of palace activity from the Jewish Temple during the reign of King Solomon, centuries after the Canaanite ruler. The excavation lies in the shadow of the Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as the Haram Sharif or Noble Sanctuary.

Years of digging have unearthed a four-room gatehouse that Mazar said appears to have been destroyed with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. In the building’s floor she found twelve large clay jars, one of which has a Hebrew inscription indicating they were used to store wine or oil.

The excavation was funded by Daniel Mintz, managing director of Olympus Capital Holdings Asia, a New York-based private equity fund, and his wife, Meredith Berkman.

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