Posted: Jun 20, 2017
In 600 B.C. in present-day Israel, a soldier named Hananyahu sent his friend a request that many of us might empathize with: Send more wine.
He wrote his message on a piece of pottery that archaeologists found in 1965. For years, biblical scholars and researchers have studied the front side of the ink-inscribed pottery shard, known as an ostracon, which was commonly used to write receipts, lists or even letters.
They deciphered the Hebrew words about money and Yahweh, which the man had sent to his friend Elyashiv, but it wasn’t until recently that they came across an appeal for alcohol written on the back side. That’s because for nearly 50 years archaeologists thought the back of the ostracon was blank, when really the ink was invisible.
Now, using multispectral imaging technology, researchers have unveiled three lines of words hidden on the ancient text message. They published their findings Wednesday in the journal PLoS One.
“Getting a letter from Hananyahu after 2,600 years, it’s something that gave me chills,” said Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, a doctoral student in applied mathematics at Tel Aviv University and an author of the study. “I was really surprised to see it.”
More than 17 words, composed of 50 characters, are on the back side of the ostracon. They include a request for wine, an assurance that Hananyahu will assist Elyashiv with anything he wants, a request for an unknown commodity and another reference to wine.
Researchers also used the imaging technology to reveal four additional lines of text on the front side of the pottery, which spoke of an exchange of silver and oil between the two.
The ostracon was found in a location that used to be a military outpost known as the fortress of Arad, which belonged to the Kingdom of Judah when Hananyahu and Elyashiv were exchanging messages. Around 586 B.C., the kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonian forces of King Nebuchadnezzar.
It’s unclear if Hananyahu ever received his wine.
By Nicholas St. Fleur
June 16, 2017
Source: The New York Times
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