[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2005, 01:45 GMT
'Oldest Hebrew alphabet' is found

View of the Tel Zayit stone (Courtesy of the Zeitah Excavations and Israel Antiquities Authority)
The finding is about to spark a vivid debate
US archaeologists say they have found what could be the immediate precursor to the Hebrew alphabet - dating back from the 10th Century BC.

The two rows of letters were found on a stone in Israel near Jerusalem.

"This makes it historically probable there were people in the 10th Century BC who could write," said Ron Tappy, the archaeologist who directed the dig.

But others have cautioned the writing could be Phoenician. A conference is due to be held later this month.

Warding off evil

Mr Tappy teaches at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the US.

His team - that also includes members from the Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Southern California - discovered the stone on a wall at Tel Zayit, in the Beth Guvrin Valley in the lowlands of ancient Judah.

Ron Tappy explaining his findings
Ron Tappy believes the inscription is a transitory alphabet

The 22 letters were carved on one side of the 38lb-stone (17kg) - which resembles a bowl on the other.

Mr Tappy told the BBC News website that it may have been put on the wall because of a belief that the alphabet warded off evil.

Another member of the team, P Kyle McCarter said it was a "Phoenician type of alphabet that is being adapted" - and as such a transitional abecedary.

If the inscription is confirmed as a sample of proto-Hebrew writing, it will fuel further debate and controversy about the existence as early as the 10th Century BC of an advanced political system that has been portrayed in biblical scriptures.


SEE ALSO
Oldest alphabet found in Egypt
15 Nov 99 |  Middle East
'Earliest writing' found
04 May 99 |  Science/Nature

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific