Aramaic inscription 248.88.
(photo credit: Stephen Pfann/UHL)
A unique Aramaic inscription on a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during the first century has been uncovered in a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, an archeologist said Wednesday.
The six-week excavation is being carried out within the Gan Sobev Homot Yerushalayim national park, close to the Zion Gate of the Old City.
The 10-line Aramaic script, which is clear but cryptic, is being deciphered by a team of epigraphic experts in an effort to determine the meaning of the text, said Prof. Shimon Gibson, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who is co-directing the excavation.
"This is a difficult script, not one that is worn or graded, which demands research," Gibson said.
He estimated that it would take a couple of months to determine what the inscription says.
"It is like digging out grandparents' hand-written letters," he quipped.
Gibson said the find uncovered two weeks ago was rare because few inscriptions from the Second Temple Period had been discovered in Jerusalem.
The dig also uncovered a sequence of building dating from the First and Second Temple periods through to the Byzantine and Early Islamic eras.
The additional finds include a house complex with a mikve ritual bath featuring a remarkably well preserved vaulted ceiling.
Three bread ovens - dated to 70 CE, when Titus and the Roman army stormed the city - were also found in the house.
Archeologists believe that this area of Jerusalem's Upper City was the priestly quarter during Second Temple times.
A large arched building with a mosaic floor from the Byzantine period preserved to a height of 3 meters was also uncovered. It may be part of a building complex or street associated with the nearby Church of St. Mary.