Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron’s latest epigraphic discovery is only the third fragment of a royal monumental inscription ever recovered from Iron Age Jerusalem. Despite their broken edges and fragmentary texts, these exceedingly rare finds provide crucial textual confirmation of Judah’s and Jerusalem’s importance during the First Temple period.
The first such inscription was found near the southern wall of the Temple Mount during excavations led by Benjamin Mazar and Meir Ben-Dov. The monumental stone fragment, inscribed with four lines of paleo-Hebrew text, was reused in the foundations of a later house—a common fate for many of the stones that once made up the buildings and monuments of Iron Age Jerusalem. The fragmentary inscription, which measures 10.6 by 9.5 inches (27 x 24 cm), contains 23 discernible letters and several fully or partially preserved words or phrases, including “stream,” “the water,” and “at the end of.” Despite the broken and disjointed nature of the text, Ben-Dov believes the inscription may have been connected with rituals that were performed on the Temple Mount.1
A second monumental inscription was discovered by the late Yigal Shiloh in the heart of the Iron Age capital. The 4.7-by-3.1-inch (12 x 8 cm) fragment consists of four lines of text with 18 carefully incised letters fully or partially preserved. Again, little sense can be made of the text, though Joseph Naveh suggests the inscription possibly included a date formula: “in the seventeenth year … in the fourth month.”2