A fragment of a limestone plaque bearing several letters of ancient Hebrew script from the period of the Kings of Judah nearly 3,000 years ago has been uncovered in an archeological excavation just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.
The white stone fragment, which dates to the 8th Century BCE, was found two months ago in an ongoing dig in the ancient City of David south of the Old City walls near the Gihon Spring.
The plaque, which has been dated by the numerous pottery shards unearthed together with it as well as the shape of the Hebrew letters found on it, was discovered broken with two lines of writing on it, said Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, who directed the dig at the site.
The name preserved on the first line of the plaque, which is only partially discernible by its remaining Hebrew letters transliterated into English as 'kiah,' could either refer to the Biblical King Hezekiah or simply be common names used in Jerusalem at the time such as Hilkia or Amekiya, he said.
"I never looked for the letter z harder in my whole life," Reich said. "It is my misfortune that I do not have the remaining letters otherwise I could be holding something historic."
"It could be Hezekiah but it could just as easily be someone else," Reich added.
The second line, in which only the Hebrew letters transliterated into English as 'ka' are preserved, could be a greeting expressing best wishes or referring to a water reservoir a potential reference to the nearby Shiloah pool, about 300 meter to the southwest, he said.
In any event, the stone plaque is indicative of a commemorative inscription that may have been meant to celebrate some sort of building project, Reich said.
"On the one hand it is frustrating that we have not found the plaque whole, but since it is broken we can only hope that other fragments of this inscription are found in the future," he concluded.