TEL AVIV – The earliest known mention of Jerusalem in Hebrew was found on a First Temple-era papyrus displayed by the Israel Antiquities Authority Wednesday, the same day a UNESCO resolution ignoring Jewish ties to Jerusalem was passed.
The rare text is the oldest extra-biblical mention of Jerusalem – spelled Yerushalma – dating from the Kingdom of Judah during the 7th century BCE, according to radiocarbon analysis. The papyrus is believed to have been plundered from a cave in the Judean Desert and was obtained by the IAA when thieves tried to sell it on the black market. They have since been sentenced to 18 years in jail.
The note apparently records a delivery of wineskins to Jerusalem and the fact that it was written on papyrus indicates that the delivery may have been intended for a member of the elite. Furthermore, the mention of a “female servant of the king” indicates that the messenger was a woman of prestige.
The full inscription reads: “From the female servant of the king, from Naharata (near Jericho) two wineskins to Jerusalem.”
According IAA director Israel Hasson, Naharata “is the same Naharata that is referred to in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: ‘And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naharata, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.’”
Amir Ganor, also of the IAA, said that after acquiring the papyrus he sat down to examine it and immediately recognized the word “Jerusalem” in Hebrew.
“I told myself it was too good to be true,” Ganor said.