The last three letters (on the left) in this drawing of line 8 of the ostracon are critical. We read them yhd or Yahad, the Community. With the particle l (lamed—the fourth letter from the left) before it, it reads “to the Community,” the technical name of the sectarian community of the scrolls.
The key letter is the last one, a dalet (d). It has been suggested that this might in fact be a resá (r). For the salient diagnostic feature that distinguishes dalet from resá in the formal and cursive scripts of this era, we must look at the right shoulder of the letter, which has survived. The vertical and the horizontal strokes come together differently in dalet and resá. In a dalet, the horizontal stroke hits the vertical down stroke well below its top, creating a little tick where the vertical stroke sticks up above the horizontal stroke. The letter resá, to the contrary, has either a curving right shoulder or a right-angled shoulder, but no tick above the right angle. Thus, even though the bottom of the letter has been cut off in our ostracon, it can only be a dalet.1. If that is so, no plausible reading other than Yahad can be suggested.
The key to deciphering the other two letters is the direction of the strokes. The het (second letter from left) is unlike the other hets on the ostracon. It is cursive; the others are more formal. There are, however, many parallels to this cursive het in contemporaneous inscriptions.2 This het is easily confused with ’alep. The two can be distinguished, however, on the basis of the direction of the strokes. The het here is drawn right leg first, then an oblique stroke up from the bottom to the top of the left down stroke. ’Alep is penned middle diagonal first, moving onto the left leg and then the right arm. Despite the difference in the way the letters are made, they often resemble each other, especially when the lower parts of the legs are broken off the ostracon.
The yod (third letter from left) here resembles an inverted v. If the right leg were not broken off, it would be longer than the left leg, which is complete. Between the two legs is a bit of space at the bottom. It cannot be a gimel or a medial nun, despite the resemblances. A yod, as here, is penned left up-stroke first, then down, with a longer right down-stroke. The yod that we are looking at is not greatly different from the yods found in other words in line 1 and line 2 of this ostracon.
The reading Yahad thus stands. No plausible alternative has been suggested that fits the paleography of this period as well. This reading (as well as the Qumran dialect of the ostracon) is a staggering blow to the many theorists who do not accept the Qumran settlement as that of a communal sect holding common property.