An ancient wine scroll that was seized from a band of cave robbers in Israel contains the first Hebrew mention of Jerusalem outside of the Bible, according to researchers.
Thieves ‘plundered’ the Seventh Century BC scroll from caves in the Judean Desert.
But it was discovered by Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) after the agency’s enforcement unit raided the thieves’ cache of stolen goods.
The document is printed on papyrus and is a royal order for ‘two jars of wine’ from the king’s maidservant in Jerusalem.
‘This is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing,’ said IAA researchers. The order dates to the time of the First Temple.
It is also the latest evidence of wine being traded in the region thousands of years ago.
IAA video on the discovery
Only a few lines of the scroll are still legible, and the actual wording reads, ‘From the king’s maidservant, from Na?arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem’.
‘The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organised administration in the Kingdom of Judah,’ said Dr Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.
‘According to the Bible, the kings Menashe, Amon, or Josiah ruled in Jerusalem at this time; however, it is not possible to know for certain which of the kings of Jerusalem was the recipient of the shipment of wine.’
IAA believes there are more ancient scripts and treasures to discover in the Judean Desert caves, but it also warned of the constant threat from thieves.
‘The dry climate of the desert is exceptional in that it facilitates the preservation of documents that provide invaluable information regarding the way of life in antiquity and the early development of religions,’ said Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s robbery prevention unit.
Last year, researchers at IAA said they planned to re-create wine served during the Byzantine Empire after finding dried grape seeds estimated to be 1,500 years old.
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