Hebrew University researchers have uncovered a rare archaeological find from the Middle Canaanite period. This is the first complete sentence found and written in the alphabet.
The alphabet, invented by the Canaanites around 1800 BC, formed the basis for most modern languages in the world. In the past, Canaanite inscriptions of only a few words were discovered in the Land of Israel, but to this day no inscriptions of considerable significance have been found. BA new study led by Prof. Yossi Garfinkel from the Hebrew University, and in collaboration with other researchers from the Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University and the Southern Adventist University in the USA, revealed a small ivory comb that was used to get rid of lice with an engraving of a complete sentence in Canaanite - the earliest ever found - expressing a spell against lice on head hair and beard. The findings were recently published in The Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.
The ivory comb, which was uncovered at the archaeological excavation site at Tel Lakish, is about 3.5 centimeters in size in total. "From the examination of the find, it was possible to see that his teeth were broken, but the remains indicate that one side consisted of thick teeth and the other side had thinner teeth," shared Dr. Madeleine Momtsoglu, from the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University, a research partner, and added: "Now, only about five years since its initial discovery, when the comb was cleaned and transferred to conservation, we were able to discover the inscription imprinted on it because the letters were carved very shallowly and could not be distinguished." In addition, the researchers testify that traces of lice were even preserved on the comb.
In the study of the raw material, done by Prof. Rivka Rabinowitz from the Hebrew University and Prof. Yuval Goren from Ben Gurion University, it was clarified that the comb was made from elephant ivory. This aspect is important because the word chet appears in the inscription.
The inscription was deciphered by Dr. Daniel Weinshtov from Ben Gurion University. He recognized on the comb 17 ancient Canaanite letters in their form, from the initial period immediately after the invention of the alphabet script. Which words make up the following sentence in 3700-year-old Canaanite: Yish chet XNUMX for withered (lice) hair and zakat (beard). The meaning of the inscription is a spell intended to 'remove' lice from the hair and beard - "May this ivory remove the lice from the hair and beard". According to Prof. Garfinkel, "In the ancient past, ivory was a very expensive material, imported from Egypt, and the comb was an extremely prestigious object. The comb and the inscription indicate that even people of high social status suffered from lice."
In the Canaanite period important state cities were established in Lachish, and in the period of the kings of Judah Lachish was the second most important city in the kingdom. The Tel Lakish site is a national park and is maintained by the Nature and Parks Authority. In Canaanite Lachish, 10 Canaanite inscriptions have been found to date, more than any other site in Israel. This was the place where they used and preserved the ancient alphabet, which later became the official script of the Iron Age kingdoms, and where they wrote the Bible. The script of the alphabet was transferred to Greek, Latin and most languages throughout the world, and is the tremendous contribution of the Canaanite culture to the history of the human race.
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