Stray Thought on Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon
With the recent press release from University of Haifa (and Haaretz’s subsequent article) it seems that the internet is a again flutter with discussion of the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon. Recent penetrating posts include Doug Mangum’s at Biblia Hebraica and Bob Cargill (see also the older post by John Hobbins over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry). What I find most fascinating is the Qeiyafa Ostracon Chronicle over at the dig’s official site. The timeline it reconstructs screams to me the question: would such effort have been expended on a stray inscription from another culture?
Now, I don’t mean to downplay the significance of this text. The ostracon (pot shard to layfolk) is amazingly important. It pushes back on recent trends in biblical studies to date texts later and later. It shows a Hebrew dialect early and hints at legal ideas found in biblical law. And lets not forget that I’m trained in Northwest Semitic inscriptions and epigraphy. This is is my shtick.
And yet, I think of the host of unread cuneiform tablets sitting in museums around the world for want of scholarly time, and I wonder if maybe some of us could be spending more time on them than these five lines scratch on the inside of a pot.