Jewish Quarter: Arabic inscription found

Archaeologists: Marble slate unearthed in J'lem dates from 10th century CE.

February 17, 2010 11:35
1 minute read.
The fragment of the marble plaque bearing the insc

arabic plaque old city 311. (photo credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authori)


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A 1,200-year-old inscription in Arabic was discovered in excavations in Jerusalem’s old Jewish Quarter, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Israel Antiques Authority.

The inscription was said to date back to the Abbasid Caliphate, the third caliphate of Muslim rule in the region and a dynasty founded by the prophet Muhammad’s youngest uncle in the tenth century CE.

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The three lines of Arabic script were carved into a marble slate 20 centimeters long and 20 centimeters wide.

In addition to the inscription, numerous ceramic vessels, glass vessels and coins that range in date from the Second Temple period to the Middle Ages were discovered in the excavation. Noteworthy among the pottery are the oil lamps decorated with Arabic inscriptions that were found in the foundations of the Ayyubid structure and on its floor.

The archaeological finds were discovered in the Jewish part of Jerusalem’s Old City, underneath an area on which a private home will be constructed, north of the Church of St. Mary of the Germans. Parts of the foundations of the church were also unearthed in the excavation.

Two similar inscriptions have been discovered in Israel in the past. Based on those previous discoveries, Professor Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem concluded that the recent discovery “dates to the year 910 CE … commemorates the granting of an estate by the Abbasid caliph to one of his loyal followers in Jerusalem.”

Such formal inscriptions, he said, are typical of the time, and were often used to grant land and even land tax exemptions to retired military veterans.


The slate was discovered by Annette Nagar, an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation director. The reign of the Abbasid caliph Al-Muqtadir (also known as “Emir of the Faithful”; 908-932 CE) was characterized by repeated wars for control over Israel with the Fatimids, who ruled Egypt.

"The caliph probably granted estates as part of his effort to strengthen his hold over the territories within his control, including Jerusalem, just as other rulers did in different periods,” she explained.

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