Takayashi Oshima/Courtesy Israel Exploration Society

JERUSALEM’S EARLIEST INSCRIPTION. This small piece of fired, blackened clay, measuring less than 1 inch square, features the oldest inscription ever found in Jerusalem. The fragmentary cuneiform inscription (drawing shown here) was part of a letter written on a clay tablet and preserves nine partial lines of wedge-shaped signs, with five lines on one side and four on the other. Although the fragment does not preserve any names or titles, Assyriologists have identified the Akkadian words “you,” “you were,” “to do” and “they” and, based on the shape and sophistication of the surviving signs, believe it was likely part of a letter written in the 14th century B.C.E. from a Canaanite king of Jerusalem to a pharaoh of Egypt. The find provides further evidence that Jerusalem was already a thriving city-state more than three centuries before David conquered the city.