Middle East

Jerusalem reference found on ancient wine ledger

Papyrus believed to be 2,700 years old unveiled by the Israel Antiquities Authority, 26 October 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The papyrus is believed to contain the earliest reference to Jerusalem outside the Bible

Israeli archaeologists have discovered an ancient wine ledger they believe contains the earliest written reference to Jerusalem outside the Bible.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) seized the 2,700-year-old papyrus from thieves who had taken it from a desert cave near the Dead Sea.

Two lines in Hebrew detail the shipment of wine from the king's household.

"From the king's maidservant, from Na'arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem," it reads.

"The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organised administration in the Kingdom of Judah," said Dr Eitan Klein of the IAA.

Archaeologists dated the 11cm by 2.5cm (4.3in by 1in) piece of papyrus to the 7th Century BC and say it is the earliest mention of the city of Jerusalem from a source other than the Bible.

The weather in the Dead Sea region appears to have helped preserve the document.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A digitised version of the 2,700-year-old papyrus at the Israel Antiquities Authority

"Organic material, such as documents, particularly delicate paper like papyrus, perish over time due to their sensitivity to moisture," the IAA's Amir Ganor said.

"The dry climate of the desert is exceptional in that it facilitates the preservation of documents that provide invaluable information regarding the way of life in antiquity and the early development of religions," he added.

The discovery was announced on Wednesday shortly after the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) adopted a second resolution in a week that Israel said denied Judaism's ties to Jerusalem.

The resolution, according to copies seen by news agencies, mentions only the Islamic name for a key holy site in the city known to Jews as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the "absurdity" of Wednesday's decision and said he would recall his country's ambassador to Unesco for consultations on how to proceed.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the resolution was aimed "at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions".

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