Louvre Museum

The squeeze, published here for the first time since it was made in 1868/69, consists of seven ripped pieces of paper, which once formed a single sheet. Produced by placing wet paper over the inscription and pressing it into the grooves of writing, the squeeze bears a high-relief, reversed replica of the inscription. (The photo is printed in reverse so as to read correctly.) The damage occurred as Ya‘qub Karavaca, who made the squeeze on Clermont-Ganneau’s behalf, fled for his life from a fight among the Bedouin who claimed to own the stela. A man accompanying Karavaca, Sheikh Jamil, saved the squeeze by snatching it off the stone while still wet, but ripped it in the process. Because the Bedouin subsequently smashed the stela, this squeeze provides the only record of the full inscription in its original form.

One of the damaged lines has long posed an intriguing challenge to scholars. Line 31 on the stela begins by saying, “And as for Horonen, dwelt there … ,” but a break has partially obliterated the subject of the sentence. With the help of the squeeze, scholars had previously restored the broken subject of the sentence as bt[-]wd. Now, for the first time, Professor Lemaire proposes to reconstruct the missing letter as d, yielding bt[d]wd, “House of David,” referring to the king of Judah. This not only fits the context of the inscription, but the sentence structure parallels an earlier reference in the inscription to the “king of Israel.” In the Bible, “House of David” often refers to the king of Judah (2 Samuel 7:26; 1 Kings 2:24, etc.).

Lemaire’s restoration gives us another mention of the “House of David” in a ninth-century B.C.E. Semitic inscription (the first, from Dan, appeared in the March/April 1994 BAR). Moreover, it improves our understanding of the Mesha stela. Apparently, the latter portion of the inscription, now largely missing, described Mesha’s victory over Judahite forces occupying sites southeast of the Dead Sea, just as the early parts of the inscription describe his victory over Israelite forces in the north.