Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy Yosef Garfinkel

Inscribed in ink on this 6-by-6-inch pottery sherd (or ostracon) discovered at Qeiyafa is the earliest known Hebrew inscription. The text, which was written with proto-Canaanite letters, is too broken and poorly preserved to provide a full translation, but paleographers have isolated the words and phrases “Do not do,” “serve,” “judge” and “king.” The ostracon’s presence in a settlement far removed from Jerusalem, as well as its apparent references to ethics and justice, indicate that the Judahite state, even during the reign of King David, was already using trained and literate scribes to record the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom’s villages and outposts.