Saturday, July 07, 2012

Hebrew Inscription from Lusitanian/Roman Villa

Archaeologists of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena found one of the oldest archaeological evidence so far of Jewish Culture on the Iberian Peninsula at an excavation site in the south of Portugal, close to the city of Silves (Algarve). On a marble plate, measuring 40 by 60 centimetres, the name "Yehiel" can be read, followed by further letters which have not yet been deciphered. The Jena Archaeologists believe that the new discovery might be a tomb slab. Antlers, which were found very close to the tomb slab in the rubble gave a clue to the age determination. "The organic material of the antlers could be dated by radiocarbon analysis with certainty to about 390 AD," excavation leader Dr. Dennis Graen of the Jena University explains. "Therefore we have a so-called 'terminus ante quem' for the inscription, as it must have been created before it got mixed in with the rubble with the antlers."

The earliest archaeological evidence of Jewish inhabitants in the region of modern-day Portugal has so far also been a tomb slab with a Latin inscription and an image of a menorah – a seven-armed chandelier – from 482 AD. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions known until now date from the 6th or 7th Century AD.