Wanting an ivory comb carved into the side of a 4000-year-old is almost simple: get these lice out of my hair.
This faint inscription, written in the language of the ancient Canaanites, represents the first known instance of a complete sentence being written using a phonetic alphabet, says archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Canaanite writing system, which lived in the eastern Mediterranean region called the Levant, lasted until about 2,000 years ago and later served as the basis for many modern alphabets (SN: 7/27/17). That makes the shuttle “the most important object I’ve found in the excavation,” says Garfinkel. The research was published on November 9 Journal of Jerusalem Archaeology.
The Canaanites were a cultural group that traded extensively throughout the Mediterranean. Few of the written records have survived, so most researchers know about them from other documents, such as the Old Testament.
Crest unearthed in 2016 among the ruins of the ancient city of Lachish in modern day Israel. Years later, when he was sent to the lab to look for traces of lice, someone noticed the faint signs stamped on the side. Let’s take a closer look at the symbols that issued the sentence, “Let the tooth and the tooth root out the hair and beard,” Garfinkel and colleagues report on November 9. Journal of Jerusalem Archaeology.
The discovery provides insight into the life of one of Lachia’s wealthy residents. As for the opinion that the beard refers, he says that it belongs to the chosen man, Garfinkel says, since the ivory elephant was an expensive good that was imported from Egypt.
The case against lice is “so human,” says Garfinkel, who notes that other writings from the time tend to center around royal arts or religion. It also appears that the shuttle was able to fulfill its purpose at least somewhat. Among the teeth, researchers found ancient remains of a louse.
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