The Chronicles of LMLK: The Throne, the Clay, & the Videos

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent to the LMLK mailinglist Sun 12/11/2005 7:14 PM.]

It never ceases to amaze me: Every time I send out one of these E-mails, I tell myself: “That’s it–never again–at least not for a long time–there won’t be anything newsworthy–I hate bothering all these people…” Then within a few days, here we go again! Fun stuff! But please let me know if you’d like to be removed from this mailing list; I only write to people I think will find it interesting.

1) The Zayit Throne–oops, I mean–Stone

2) Royal Clay Manufacturing Facility?

3) LMLK Handles on TV with Gabriel Barkay


The Zayit Throne–oops, I mean–Stone

Earlier this week I attended a lecture by Dr. Bruce Zuckerman at the University of Judaism here in L.A. I’ve heard him lecture on 3 other occasions, but this one was simply spectacular. He has a unique, & very dramatic style that encourages & provides time for his audience (especially slow thinkers like myself) to absorb what he’s saying.

This lecture was promoted in reference to the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls because of his milestone publication last year (BASOR 334, co-authored with Barkay, Lundberg, & Vaughn) of new photos that allowed more detailed readings of their famous inscriptions. However, the 80+ minutes were spent with other major inscriptions he’s photographed, beginning at Wadi al-Hol (“Gulch of Terror”) in Egypt where graffiti preserves the oldest alphabetic record of AL (which could be read as “God”).

He interjected a humorous/ironic interpretation of the El Amarna texts, sent from various Near East sites (including Jerusalem) complaining about out-of-control “insurgents” spreading “terror” throughout the land. Is history repeating itself?!! These Akkadian texts are also noteworthy for their Semitic glosses. Dr. Zuckerman envisioned Semites in Canaan narrating the letters to scribes who did their best to translate the message, but occasionally resorted to these glosses so the tablets would preserve the message as accurately as possible for people who either had no Semitic alphabet to record their words or were not familiar with it at the time (~1400 B.C.).

He prefaced his photos of the Ugaritic alphabetic tablets from Ras Shamra by noting they were, in his opinion, a more important 20th-century find than the Dead Sea Scrolls. While those preserve the Biblical texts written about 2,000 years ago, one of the Ugaritic texts from about 3,200 years ago begins with “the smiting of LTN, the twisting serpent”, a phrase used by Isaiah (27:1) centuries later. This demonstrates 2 things: 1) Isaiah (as well as Job & at least one psalmist) were not inventing a mythical creature named Leviathan, & 2) Isaiah was indeed a well-read, literate individual (analogous to Milton, whose medieval “Paradise Lost” cited Greek/Roman culture).

It is at this point that he showed us 5 slides of the already-famous Tel Zayit Stone found this past summer. He recalled how Dr. Barkay, one of the excavation’s directors, lamented that they had been casually walking past it for 2 years without noticing its inscriptions. And yes, “inscriptions”–plural!! All I’ve heard from the press reports & blogs from the recent Philadelphia conferences was that it had an abecedary; although one cited epigrapher P. Kyle McCarter as saying it was not really an abecedary, & now I understand why that may be. Dr. Zuckerman showed us the entire bottom inscription:


Here I’ve used my own system of U.S. ASCII keyboard characters to represent the Paleo-Hebrew, & I’ve written it left-to-right; the actual inscription would’ve been read from right-to-left (you’d have to view this message in a mirror the same way you would when I write LMLK, which in Paleo-Hebrew is “KLML”). The “@” is for Tet, & “$” for Tsade.


1) There are 4 swapped pairs of letters (UE, HZ, LK, & PO) deviating from the traditional Hebrew order: ABGDEUZH@YKLMNCOP$QRST. (I wonder what impact this will have on kabbalists who rely heavily on the traditional numerical values of A=1, Y=10, Q=100, etc.)

2) An extra line on the Hey makes it look like a 3-pronged Yod. This could be a mistake–the scribe may have started drawing a Yod, then realized the placement error & converted it into a Hey; or the extra line may be one of many random scratches present all over the stone (just like the one above the Het next to Hey). It looked like a 3-pronged Yod in the publicized press photo, but I did not even notice it in Dr. Zuckerman’s photo under alternate lighting.

3) I used a “W” for the symbol written over the Yod because it’s hard to say if this was an aborted Mem, a misplaced Shin, or a practice zigzag scribble.

4) The “||” following the abecedary may indicate the scribe’s unique method of terminating an inscription. If so, evidence of other long messages on the top side is substantiated by 2 additional pairs of these marks, which are not actually straight bars, but vertical zigzags resembling the Mems on the Gezer Calendar (albeit with straight tails on the Zayit Stone).

5) The Tau, usually at the end, seems to be absent even though there’s sufficient space between the Shin & the terminators.

If you’re reading this E-mail in Courier New font that allots equal space for characters & spaces, the relative vertical alignment of the abecedary is approximate (U over Q over Z, but the terminators both align under the @, & the ? aligns under the terminators); it would be more accurate if I had omitted the Tau’s space, but I wanted to emphasize that I did not see a Tau there.

I added a bracketed question mark at the end of the 3rd line because the surface of the stone is fractured/missing after the Resh. This, as you know, is the bottom of the stone, the top having a bowl shape. These same 3 letters, OZR, were repeated on the other side–when the stone is right-side up, but again, the rest of the inscription has been abraded. (Also note that some portions of the inscriptions were raised rather than recessed due to encrustation.)

Was this the name of the scribe? Was it, along with the alphabet on the bottom, a practice scribble for a longer inscription on the top/visible side mentioning a “treasure” or “help” (Helper/Warrior if read as a name) or altar “settle/ledge” (literal translations of “Ezer” & “Ezra”; Strong’s 5826-5840)?

Even more speculative is another abraded inscription on the top side that Dr. Zuckerman reads as KC (Kaf+Samek reading right-to-left in Paleo-Hebrew; Strong’s 3677), & translated as “bowl” in reference to the stone’s bowl shape (note that Biblical translations are “full moon” or “appointed” time). Personally I think he may have mentally swapped KC with OZR (“settle/ledge” could refer to a bowl-shaped reservoir for a liquid offering on an altar). During the Q&A session afterwards, an attendee mentioned KCA (Strong’s 3678), the Hebrew word for “throne”.

Naturally, my LMLK antennae rise anytime an inscription can be read in relation to something pertaining to a king! It immediately conjured up in my mind the legends surrounding the Stone of Scone (a.k.a. “LiA fAiL”) upon which the kings of Ireland, Scotland, & England have been crowned upon, which allegedly was the stone Jacob used as a libation altar (Gen. 28:18 & 35:14; this latter passage following God’s promise of a nation [Judah?] & a group of nations [British Isles?] with kings), then revered & carried during the Exodus on poles through metal rings as Tabernacle furniture later was, it also being the rock Moses struck that water flowed from (Exo. 17:6 & Num. 20:8–“the rock”–a specific one, not just any rock; note the Scone’s crack), & subsequently all the kings of Judah were crowned on (2Kgs. 11:14) until Jeremiah brought it (& King Zedekiah’s daughters; the “tender, young twigs” of Eze. 17:22) to Ireland (“YR’s Land”, “Land of Jer.”) to fulfill the “build & plant” portion of Jer. 1:10, etc. But I digress…

Another attendee asked about the possibility of the stone being a gatepost socket (I saw several of these with cuneiform inscriptions on display at the Univ. of Penn. Museum, & many more in their basement while photographing LMLK handles there in 2003); however, Dr. Zuckerman noted that there was no wear visible in the bowl of this & several other bowl-shaped stones recovered from Tel Zayit, one of which was made of expensive, imported red granite from Egypt. Do any of the other bowls have inscriptions? How many others may surface as excavations at Zeitah continue in the years to come? And most importantly, as Hershel Shanks reportedly asked at the recent conference in Philadelphia, “What does all of this mean?”

Anyway, after presenting the Zayit Stone, he showed the plaster Baalam texts from Deir Alla, whom he noted as a “stellar cursor” that blessed Israel, the Kuntillet Arjud inscription that says, “May [YEVE of Teman] bless you & keep you”–a great segue into the Ketef Hinnom amulets, which not only include that famous Priestly benediction, but line 3 of the smaller one (KH2) also mentions the “the ‘warrior/helper’ & the rebuker of evil”–possibly the same expression represented by OZR on the Zayit Stone! This supports Ron Tappy’s interpretation of the stone as apotropaic in nature (although I think this interpretation would be stronger if one or more of the inscriptions had been in the Zayit Stone’s bowl [like the later, well-known Aramaic incantations bowls] as opposed to around it & beneath it).

By the way, my antennae also went up when I saw the BR ligatures in “bless” (YBRK) on line 14 of KH1 & line 5 of KH2! Compare the H4C seal & the Siloam inscription BRs:

Please note that Dr. Zuckerman opened his lecture explaining the “complexity of assumption”, & offered the humble caveat, “Everything I’m about to tell you is almost certainly wrong!” He closed with an ad for (which now has over 18,000 photos, headed towards >100,000) & encouraged us to “preserve [these inscriptions] for future generations so they won’t be able to figure [them] out either!”


Royal Clay Manufacturing Facility?

Shimon Gibson also lectured a few weeks ago at the University of Judaism regarding his work at Kibbutz Tzuba (Suba), where he found an elaborate rock-cut system: a cave, a vertical shaft, a horizontal corridor, a flight of steps, & several external plastered pools. Most of you know that all the publicity this year focused on its proximity to the traditional home of John the Baptist just west of Jerusalem (see BAR May/June 2005, & Dr. Gibson’s 2004 Doubleday book, “The Cave of John the Baptist”); however, his lecture put the entire history of the site in context. Based on plaster analysis, it was built sometime in the Iron Age, & its extensive water system begs comparison to King Hezekiah’s monumental tunnel project.

But unlike that tunnel, which had a clear/obvious purpose for transporting water from the eastern side to the southern end of the walled city, the Suba system is isolated–a place for flowing water in the middle of nowhere! If its pools were for ritual bathing, where would the ritually pure go afterwards? By the time they got to Jerusalem, they’d probably become impure again (if not physically dirty from the donkey/camel/horse ride). In contrast to “thousands” of other caves he’s explored, Dr. Gibson summarized Suba as an “enormous anomaly”.

He also explained that this water system is unique in that his team of excavators has not yet found any substantial remnants of Iron Age pottery associated with it (in contrast to the piles of Roman & Byzantine pottery found in the cave). This leads him to wonder if maybe its purpose relates to the usage of the water rather than the consumption of the water. He speculated that one possibility is that it may have been used for processing clay.

Applying this scheme to Hezekiah’s reign, which witnessed the most significant Judean economic expansion, maybe there was a major clay digging/mining operation in the Shephelah region (where chemical analysis indicates LMLK & Rosette pottery originated), then it was transported to Suba for this processing procedure (i.e., sifting, levigation, & convenience-packaging), then transported to a major potter’s workshop near Jerusalem for forming/firing. Of course, after this the trail grows cold: Were the jars transported to the Hebron area for filling at royal farms, or were they distributed throughout Judah at Levitical dwellings where neighboring farmers would fill them with their firstfruits & tithes??

Maybe additional clues will be provided during next year’s excavation season. Only a couple of weeks before his lecture as he was clearing debris above the entrance to the cave to make it tourist-friendly, he discovered an entrance to yet another cave!


LMLK Handles on TV with Gabriel Barkay

Or was it Dr. Barkay on TV with LMLK handles? In either case, I missed the original hour-long airing of “Upon This Rock” on New Year’s Eve/Day around midnight 2001/2002. Its copyright says 2002, Zola Levitt Ministries, & when I saw its rebroadcast at the end of November it also had a new 2005 copyright; but you could tell from the context of Dr. Barkay’s 3 brief interview segments that he was recorded in 2000 or 2001 (probably 2001) since the Temple Mount debris was dumped at the end of 1999 & beginning of 2000. Here’s a transcript:

First segment (45 seconds):

[showing Dr. Barkay] “This southeastern corner is a crucial point in the Temple Mount. This was also a place where one of the pioneers of Jerusalem’s archeology, [showing photo of Warren’s team with him highlighted] Charles Warren, in the 1860s carried out his pioneering excavations [showing famous PEF illustration of Victorian lady-tourist being lowered down 80′ vertical shaft]. Upon bedrock he found a rock pocket with an intact pottery vessel [showing 1-handled jug at bottom of shaft] of First Temple period of the 8th century BC. This is also very close to the place where he for the first time identified [showing first Z2D & Plus Mark handles above horizontal passageway] the royal seal impressions from the time of Hezekiah [showing “715 BC” on timeline], king of Judah. So we have here [showing Dr. Barkay again] intact layers of First Temple period underneath.”

Note: The 1-handled jug appears just to the right of the LMLK handles in the scan of the “Original Issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine–July, 1871” on my Rarebooks page–scroll down to about the middle of it:
By the way, just below that, I have several unbound copies of these 1871 articles with these illustrations, including the 80′ shaft, available for–what else?–$18.71. Here’s the photo of Warren & the shaft used on the video, courtesy of the Palestine Exploration Fund:

Second segment (60 seconds):

[showing Dr. Barkay sifting through debris in Kedron Valley by hand] “Here in this valley up here we see modern dumping area of debris which originates in a [sic] archeological crime in an excavation which took place upon the Temple Mount in November, 1999. [showing black/white video of bulldozers & backhoes destroying the Temple Mount] Following that excavation which was carried out with heavy machinery at the entrance to the so-called Solomon’s Stables, the Moslem waqf [showing Dr. Barkay again] carrying out those excavations, dumped the material from there with dozens of loyals which moved out the material from the Temple Mount, dumped it in different dumping sites. This is one of them–the main one.”

(Next a Moslem explains in Arabic, with English translation voice-over, that the mosque had to be built suddenly with no announcement because this is the only way to work with the Israeli government–“we have to impose things underground & then talk about it.” Then they show Dr. Barkay pointing out the large capital fragment he found in the debris, with a voice-over by someone else describing that it’s from the Second Temple.)

Third segment, 15 seconds:

[showing Dr. Barkay sketching non-descript “EB” sherd in his notebook, writing a paragraph about it in cursive Hebrew] “The goal is beyond any doubt obvious & clear: It is Islamization of the Temple Mount & creating facts, avoiding any civilized person from the world to have a say in what goes on upon the Temple Mount.”

The complete 1-hour video (on VHS or DVD) is available online, but it’s embedded within:
Click the “Enter Zola’s Store” button.
Click the big “Videos” tab.
Click the little “Israel” link under the big “Videos” tab.
You should see “Upon This Rock” at the top of the list if they haven’t changed it.


All 3 University of Judaism lectures–Dr. Barkay’s lecture that I chronicled in the previous LMLK newsletter as well as the Zuckerman & Gibson lectures chronicled above–are available on audio tapes from the University of Judaism Dept. of Continuing Education.

Okay, that’s it–never again…

G.M. Grena

“Remove the turban, take off the crown … overturn (Judah to Ireland), overturn (Ireland to Scotland), overturn (Scotland to England) not again till He comes whose right it is…”–Eze. 21:26-7


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