Archaeology mystery as ancient ‘curse tablet’ could show earliest Hebrew name of God

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During excavations at the West Bank, researchers uncovered a tablet only slightly larger than a postage stamp, with an ancient text that called on God to curse a person who breaks their word. While the study has not been peer-reviewed yet, the researchers believe that the tablet is 3200 years old, making it the oldest known Hebrew text, and also the earliest one to contain the Hebrew name of God.

The 40 letters of the proto-Hebrew inscription on the tablet is centuries older than any Hebrew text discovered in ancient Israel.

The archaeologists note that the inscription is a warning to those who do not fulfil their obligations held by a covenant, which is a legally binding agreement.

The team of researchers translated the inscription to say: “Cursed, cursed, cursed by the God YHW.

“You will die cursed. Cursed you will surely die.

“Cursed by YHW- cursed cursed cursed.”

YHW is the three-letter version of the word Yahweh, the Hebrew word for God.

Project leader Scott Stripling, an archaeologist and the director of excavations for the US-based Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) noted: “These types of amulets are well known in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but Zertal’s excavated pottery dated to the Iron Age I and Late Bronze Age, so logically the tablet derived from one of these earlier periods.

“Even so, our discovery of a Late Bronze Age inscription stunned me.”

According to researcher Pieter Gert van der Veen, deciphering the concealed letters proved tedious, but “each day we recovered new letters and words written in a very ancient script.”

The team discovered the tablet on the heights of Mount Ebal, just north of the city of Nablus, in December 2019.

The tablet consists of a tiny folded lead sheet, about 2.5 centimetres tall, and 2.5 centimetres wide.

While the details of this discovery will be shared in an archaeological journal later this year, the researchers wanted to make this announcement early before the news was leaked.

The researchers discovered this tablet using a process of wet sifting- which involves washing sediments with water.

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The tablet was found inside sediment dug up during the archaeological excavations on Mount Ebal in the 1980s.

Mr Stripling believes that this sheet was unearthed during excavations of the ancient stone structure called “Joshua’s Altar,” high on a ridge of the mountain.

Some attribute the site to where the biblical figure Joshua, the successor to Moses as leader of the Israelites – sacrificed animals to God.

Meanwhile, other experts believe the spot be a sacrificial altar from the Iron Age, several hundred years later.

A chemical analysis of the tablet reveals that it was made from a lead mine in Greece that was active during this period.

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