Multispectral imaging reveals biblical-period inscription unnoticed for half a century

Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, Anat Mendel-Geberovich, Arie Shaus, Barak Sober, Michael Cordonsky, David Levin, Murray Moinester, Benjamin Sass, Eli Turkel, Eli Piasetzky, Israel Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Most surviving biblical period Hebrew inscriptions are ostraca - ink-on-clay texts. They are poorly preserved and once unearthed, fade rapidly. Therefore, proper and timely documentation of ostraca is essential. Here we show a striking example of a hitherto invisible text on the back side of an ostracon revealed via multispectral imaging. This ostracon, found at the desert fortress of Arad and dated to ca. 600 BCE (the eve of Judah's destruction by Nebuchadnezzar), has been on display for half a century. Its front side has been thoroughly studied, while its back side was considered blank. Our research revealed three lines of text on the supposedly blank side and four "new" lines on the front side. Our results demonstrate the need for multispectral image acquisition for both sides of all ancient ink ostraca. Moreover, in certain cases we recommend employing multispectral techniques for screening newly unearthed ceramic potsherds prior to disposal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178400
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2017

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