Monday, July 26, 2010

Tel Dan Stele

The Tel Dan Stele is a black basalt stele erected by an Aramaean king in northernmost Israel containing an Aramaic inscription to commemorate his victory over the ancient Hebrews. Although the name of the author of the stele does not seem to appear on the available fragments, it is most likely a king of neighboring Damascus. Language, time, and location make it plausible that the author was Hazael or his son, Bar Hadad II/III, who were kings of Damascus and enemies of the kingdom of Israel. The stele was discovered at Tel Dan, by a team of scholars and workers led by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran (1909 - 2008). The Stele was previously named Tell el-Qadi, after a mound where a city once stood at the northern tip of Israel. Fragment A was discovered in 1993, and fragments B1 and B2, which fit together, were discovered in 1994. Biran's excavations began in 1966 and ended in 1993, making the Tel Dan excavation the longest continuously excavated site in Israel.

The inscription generated excitement among biblical scholars and biblical archaeologists because the letters 'ביתדוד' are identical to the Hebrew for "house of David." If these letters refer to the Davidic line then this is the first time the name "David" has been recognized at any archaeological site. The scholarly consensus among archaeologists and epigraphers is that the fragment is an authentic reference to the Biblical King David.


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