The headlines this month from the world of biblical archaeology included the discovery of a previously unknown Egyptian queen, a possible Judahite royal inscription, and an everyday item with big implications. Here were the top three news reports in biblical archaeology from November 2022.
3. New-Kingdom Mummies and Unknown Queen’s Pyramid Discovered in Egypt
Archaeologists excavating at the necropolis at Saqarra, 20 miles south of Cairo, have unearthed 300 ornate coffins from the New Kingdom period – the first time burials from this era have been found at the site. It appears that they were all buried near the pyramid of Teti, a pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt who was worshiped in the New Kingdom period. In ancient Egypt, people often wanted to be buried near pharaohs who had been deified. In addition, the excavation team discovered the pyramid of a previously unknown Queen named Neith, after the Egyptian goddess of the same name. Little is known of her yet, but that may change as her pyramid is fully excavated.
2. Scholars Announce the Translation of a Partial Royal Inscription with King Hezekiah’s Name
Epigrapher Gershon Galil and archaeologist Eli Shukron recently announced that they have reconstructed the name of King Hezekiah on a limestone fragment discovered near the near the Gihon Spring. The fragment, which was discovered in 2007, measures 5.5 x 4 x 2 inches (14 x 10 x 5 cm). It contains two lines of four letters each, which Galil and Shukron believe reveals part of Hezekiah’s name (the first and last letters of Hezekiah’s name are missing) and a reference to a pool (again the first letter is missing). They believe this fragment to be part of a monumental royal inscription by Hezekiah in honor of his water system, referenced in 2 Kings 20:20 (“The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?” [ESV]). Galil and Shukron further linked this fragment with another inscription that was discovered by Yigal Shiloh in 1978 some 130 meters southwest. That inscription has similar lettering and includes a reference to “seventeen”/”seventeenth,” which Galil and Shukron suggest indicates that Hezekiah may have erected his monument in his seventeenth year. However, in a Facebook post, Galil admitted that the two inscriptions are found on different types of stone and that the panels are different in thickness. While the Hezekiah inscription been announced as a new discovery, epigrapher Peter van der Veen pointed out that he wrote a German article in 2009 proposing that this fragment contained the name Hezekiah, although it should be noted that he did not link it to the pool or the other inscription. Still, if this interpretation is correct, this fragment would be the first royal inscription by a Judahite king yet discovered.
1. Ivory Lice Comb Contains Early Canaanite Inscription
Yosef Garfinkel and Michael G. Hasel recently announced the discovery of an ivory lice comb bearing an early Canaanite inscription. The ivory comb, which was discovered in 2016 and is 3,700 years old, measures approximately 3.5 × 2.5 cm in size. It once had teeth on both sides, but they were broken off sometime in the past. The inscription consists of a sentence of seven words, made up of 17 letters in early pictographic style, and expresses a desire for the comb to be effective. It reads, “May this tusk root out the lice of the hai[r and the] beard.” Garfinkel and Hasel are two of the authors of a study on the artifact published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology. In the article, it is asserted the inscription “for the first time provide[s] us with a complete reliable sentence in a Canaanite dialect, written in the Canaanite script.”
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