NPR Radio: Reading Ancient Graffiti

The Weekend Edition of NPR News features a story of Karen Stern’s study of ancient graffiti.

[Karen] Stern, 35, is an archaeologist and an assistant professor in the history department at Brooklyn College. Her passion is the tomb graffiti of the ancient Jews in what was then Roman Palestine. Graffiti has been “published, but sort of disregarded,” she says. “Whereas I think it is intimate, vocal and spontaneous, and adds to the historical record.”
An expedition to the Southern Galilee a few hours north ends at the site of one of the country’s richest burial sites: Beit She’arim. It is both national park and necropolis; a city of the dead dating back to the first century. There are more than 30 excavated tombs here.
It’s in the Cave of Coffins that Stern points to two inscriptions in ancient Greek. They are tiny and clustered near niches once holding oil lamps.
One says, “Take courage, Holy Parents of Pharcitae, udes adonitas — no one is immortal.” Stern explains that the dead who are being brought into the catacombs shouldn’t feel that they are weak just because they’ve passed on.
She reads aloud the other inscription: “Good luck on your resurrection.”

The article continues with a report of her visit with Boaz Zissu to a hidden cave at Horvat Lavnin in the Shephelah where they each discovered a new inscription. The NPR website includes the 13-minute audio and 16 photographs.

Achzib, Kh Lavnin, from southeast, tb021707865

Horvat Lavnin, possible site of biblical Achzib, in the Shephelah of Judah

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