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Whoops

by michael February 05 2008
Municipal news

Here's a story with a moral in it, kids: try not to let your ambitions get in the way of your common sense.

A couple weeks ago Jerusalemite blogged that archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who specializes in the history of Biblical Israel and may have uncovered the citadel of David near the Old City, uncovered a stone seal bearing the name of a prominent Judean official mentioned in the Bible. Wellll, it turns out that Mazar read the inscription backwards, and what she thought was the official's name turned out to be a then-common (and still common) Jewish name for women. Embarrassing!

Mazar had originally read the name on the seal as "Temech," and suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.

But after the find was first reported in The Jerusalem Post, various epigraphers around the world said Mazar had erred by reading the inscription on the seal straight on (from right to left) rather than backwards (from left to right), as a result of the fact that a seal creates a mirror image when used to inscribe a piece of clay.

The critics, including the European scholar Peter van der Veen, as well as the epigrapher Ryan Byrne, co-director of the Tel Dan excavations, suggested in Internet blogs that the correct reading of the seal is actually "Shlomit," also a biblical name.

Mazar said Monday that she accepted the reading of "Shlomit" on the ancient seal, and added that she appreciated the scholarly research on the issue.

"We are involved in research, not in proving our own opinions," Mazar said.

She noted that the name Shlomit was known in the period from which the seal dated, and that other contemporary seals had been found that bore names of women who held official status in the administration.

Oh, what a funny language our beloved Hebrew is. To Dr. Mazar's credit, she's being big about this, and Jerusalemite hopes she'll uncover something else fantastic soon - and have it double-checked.

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