Bible scholar and Israel Prize winner Shmuel Ahituv on Wednesday revealed a rare papyrus fragment in which Jerusalem is mentioned. The papyrus was obtained in an undisclosed manner through the theft prevention division of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The ancient parchment has been dated to the 7th century BCE, which makes it one of only three papyri documents from that era.
The document from the First Temple period, of which only two lines of ancient Hebrew script have survived, is a dispatch regarding a gift of wine “to Jerusalem.” The text itself reads: “[hand]maid of the king, from Na’arata, wineskins, wine, to Jerusalem.” The city of Na’arata, or Naarah is mentioned in Joshua 16:7. The gift of wine was sent either to King Manasseh, King Amon or King Josiah – who reigned during this period.
Prof. Ahituv emphasized that “not only is this papyrus the most ancient external biblical source that mentions Jerusalem in Hebrew script, but also, until now, no papyrus documents from the First Temple period have been found in the Land of Israel except one from Murabat creek.” The papyrus also draws attention to high-ranking women in the Judean administration.
Eitan Klein from the IAA theft prevention division said that “this document is a rare testimony to orderly administration in the Kingdom of Judea. The document highlights the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the first half of the 7th century BCE.”
IAA head Israel Hason said that this papyrus points to the possibility that “more findings of great importance to our heritage are waiting to be discovered in the Judean desert. World heritage artifacts are being robbed daily … Israel should allocate the resources for a historic operation of methodic excavation in all the caves of the Judean desert.”
Minister of Culture and Education Miri Regev said that the discovery of the papyrus “upon which the name of our capital Jerusalem is in full display is yet further testimony that Jerusalem was and will forever be the capital of the Jewish people … even if UNESCO ratifies its unfortunate decision ten times over.”