An ancient papyrus fragment, recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), contains what is believed to be the earliest reference to Jerusalem apart from the Bible. Dating back to around 7th century B.C., and therefore older than the Dead Sea Scrolls, the document features two lines in ancient Hebrew that state:
From the king’s maidservant, from Naʽarat [a place near Jericho], jars of wine, to Jerusalem.
Stolen from a cave in the Judean Desert by robbers during antiquity, the papyrus has since been recovered by Israeli authorities, and dated with the help of radiocarbon analysis. According to experts, it roughly belongs to the time when King Solomon constructed the First Holy Temple in 957 B.C. As described in the Hebrew Bible, the structure was destroyed some 400 years later during the Siege of Jerusalem by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II.
Measuring around 4 inches by 1 inch, the papyrus fragment was originally a shipping document, containing records of tax payments and delivery of goods to storehouses across Jerusalem. As pointed out by historians, Jerusalem was the capital of the then kingdom of Judea. Speaking about the find, Pnina Shor, the head of IAA’s Dead Sea Scroll Project, said:
It’s the first time we encounter the name Jerusalem on a papyrus, which was probably written by a woman. That’s very exciting.
Following its discovery, the 2,700-year-old document has been present by the Israeli authorities as evidence of the long history Judaism shares with Jerusalem, more specifically the Temple Mount. This comes on the same day that UNESCO released a document, referring to the land as a “Muslim holy site of worship”. This, however, isn’t entirely incorrect, since it is considered to be an important religious site in Judaism, Christianity as well as Islam. Miri Regev, the Minister of Culture and Sport in Israel, added:
The discovery of the papyrus on which the name of our capital Jerusalem is written is further tangible evidence that Jerusalem was and will remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The Temple Mount, the very heart of Jerusalem and Israel, will remain the holiest place for the Jewish people, even if UNESCO ratifies the false and unfortunate decision another 10 times.
In response, Saeb Erekat of the Palestine Liberation Organization was reported saying:
Contrary to what the Israeli government claims, the resolution that was voted by UNESCO aims at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.