Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ancient Papyrus Text Seized in Israel

The BBC is reporting that Israeli authorities have seized what appears to be a very early papyrus document "from two Palestinian men in a sting operation at a Jerusalem hotel, police said. The two could face several years in jail." Israel claims all archaeological discoveries as state property.

Written in ancient Hebrew similar to the script seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, this small document (6 by 6 inches) is described as "a legal instruction, transferring a widow's property to her late husband's brother. ... Unusually, the first line of the document indicates a precise date, the [Israeli Antiquities Authority] said - 'Year 4 [AD] to the destruction of Israel', which could indicate either AD74, when Jerusalem's Second Temple was destroyed, or AD139, the date of a Jewish revolt violently put down by Rome."

The document is currently undergoing lab tests for authentication purposes.