In a new study in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, Dr. Daniel Vainstub proposes that the Ophel pithos inscription is written in Ancient South Arabian script and is connected with the account of the queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem in the days of Solomon (1 Kgs 10:1–13). The inscription was discovered in 2012 during the Ophel excavations led by Dr. Eilat Mazar, and it has been dated to the tenth century BC. Most epigraphers believe the inscription is written in an ancient Canaanite script, although establishing a coherent translation has proved difficult. Vainstub believes that the inscription is not Canaanite, but rather comes from the region that was once the kingdom of Sheba. According to his translation, it refers to ladanum, an aromatic resin that was an ingredient in the incense used in Israelite worship (Ex 30:34–38). Because the pithos bearing the inscription was made of clay that originated in Jerusalem, Vainstub suggests that a scribe from Sheba who was fluent in Ancient South Arabian oversaw the trade in spices between the two kingdoms.
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