Abbreviations in Inscriptions: A Guest Post by Gershon Galil

12 inscriptions of only one letter “aleph” (A), inscribed on pithoi were unearthed in Kuntillet ‘Ajrud – about fifty km south of Kadesh Barnea — among other numerous inscriptions dated to the end of the ninth century – beginning of the eighth centuries BC.

In my opinion this single letter is an abbreviation which stands for asham = “guilty” = atonement, a sacrifice atoning for a sin. This proposal has not yet been suggested in research.

These inscriptions may be similar to the second Qieyafa inscription — KPRT ISHBA’AL etc. See Lev 19 21-22: “And he shall bring his trespass offering (his “asham”) unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering (“asham”), And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering (“asham”) before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.”

Furthermore, we also have only a yod in about ten inscriptions.

See, for further instances of such usages

  1. ADAM ZERTAL in BEN BARAK –FS 2012 175-210
  2. Maeir_Marked Judahite Cooking Pots_JAOS_130.1_2010.pdf
  3. Jerusalem the Temple Mount – see fig 12 p. 69 third_pri_report(1).pdf

1 thought on “Abbreviations in Inscriptions: A Guest Post by Gershon Galil

  1. Gershon
    As with the Jerusalem pithos inscription, I think back to the LBA Gezer jars, which have single protoalphabetic letters on them, and these would be abbreviations of the names of the commodities in them.
    These were inscribed before being baked (Colless 1991, 22, depictions; 31, discussion). Some have M (a vertical wavy water sign), others have MM; presumably, in both cases “water” is meant.
    Other inscriptions in this collection, all single letters, may be abbreviations of the commodities they contained: Y (yn wine) H. ( fermenting wine) T (trsh new wine) Sh (shkr beer or shmn oil) H (hlb milk) S (smk fish!?).
    These details are mentioned here:
    I also say there that Gershon Galil’s reconstruction and interpretation are the most plausible of all the hypotheses (even better than mine, arguing for water, not wine), and they are strongly supported by Douglas Petrovich (PEQ 147, 2, 1915). I will now suggest that your solution there (reading YYN “wine”) could also be tried here: instead of K for the first three remaining vertical strokes, YYN might be proposed (with [RPT] as “fresh”, “healthy”, “medicinal”, or “weak”?).
    However, accepting the reading KPRT: as a toponym it might be Kepirâ, one of the Gibeonite towns (Joshua 9.17).
    My own cogitations on this Qeiyafa jar continue to be recorded here:
    Brian Colless PhD ThD


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