Garo Nalbandian/Amman Archaeological Museum

“Balaam, son of Beor,” the name of a Biblical prophet, appears, incompletely, in the plaster wall fragment enclosed in blue, left. The four groupings of fragments called Combination I are seen here as they were published in 1976, forming 18 lines of text. At that time the excavators did not connect these four groups. Over the last decade, however, various scholars have realigned the groups and have painstakingly filled in gaps with a few of the hundreds of original fragments.

Now André Lemaire has proposed a restoration of Combination I based on these scholars’ work. Tiny fragments, sometimes a single letter here and another letter there, have been placed in the puzzle, which has been tightened to 16 lines.

Above the first line of Combination I, the scribe painted a thick straight red line, part of a red frame that originally enclosed the column of text on its top and left sides. A few words of line one were also written in red because they form the tide of this portion of text: “[Ba]laam [son of Beo]r, the man who was a seer of the gods.” This is undoubtedly the famous Balaam, son of Beor, who figures so prominendy in Numbers 22–24.

Below, top, shows the four groupings as pictured left. Below, bottom, shows the four groupings as compressed, forming 16 instead of 18 lines. Other fragments, not shown, have also been added in Lemaire’s reconstruction (see sidebar below).