After analyzing Hebrew inscriptions on ancient pottery shards found in the Negev Desert, which researchers believe date to the time of the First Temple Period, now scholars wonder if the Bible was written earlier than we once thought.
Teams of researchers have developed a special algorithm to analyze the newly discovered ancient Hebrew writing, while other scholars still prefer to rely on biblical text analysis to figure out the exact date authors began writing the Bible.
With the help of sophisticated imaging tools and complex software, Tel Aviv University researchers determined the series of 2,600-year-old inscriptions were written by at least six different authors, indicating that literacy in the Kingdom of Judah may have been far more widespread than commonly believed.
“There’s a heated discussion regarding the timing of the composition of a critical mass of biblical texts,” said Finkelstein, who led the team of researchers together with physics professor Eliezer Piasetzky. “But to answer this, one must ask a broader question: What were the literacy rates in Judah at the end of the First Temple period? And what were the literacy rates later on, under Persian rule?”
Known as the Arad ostraca, the writings were discovered in the ruin of an ancient Judahite military fortress near the Negev city in the 1960s, and mainly consist of mundane military orders including commands regarding the movement of troops and the provision of supplies for the small garrison stationed there.
The TAU team of archaeologists, physicists and mathematicians developed specialized imaging tools and algorithms to photograph, digitize and analyze the handwriting of the missives — 16 ink inscriptions on ceramic shards. The team used multispectral imaging to reconstruct Hebrew letters that had been partially erased over time, and then used a computer algorithm to analyze the writings to detect differences in handwriting strokes.