Two very early inscriptions were found in excavations in the Shephelah this summer and word leaked about them both this week, in advance of the annual SBL/ASOR meetings in Philadelphia. Since lots of news reports and bloggers have written about them, I am not motivated to say more, though both are more interesting to me than the “Megiddo church,” which was also announced this week.
An inscription found at Gath (Tell es-Safi) has a name that is similar to the foreign name Goliath, known from the Bible as the giant who was defeated by David. Higgaion has the best summary of the story with lots of links and a few photos.
South of Gath is Tell Zayit, for which a biblical identification is yet unknown. A 38-pound stone had the alphabet written on it in the 10th century B.C. (which constitutes one of my favorite words in the English language, an abecedary; see why?). The best run-down of the best and most recent articles is at the Language Log. This is not the earliest abecedary (the Izbet Saratah inscription dates to the 11th century), nor is it the only 10th century inscription from the Shephelah (the Gezer Calendar is also dated to this time, though not on the basis of stratigraphy as the mound was “excavated” by Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister). It is important because of the paucity of inscriptions from this time.