In 2010, Israeli archaeologists uncovered a stone tablet in the oldest part of Jerusalem, which they believe dates to the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. Gershon Galil, a professor at the University of Haifa, recently announced that he deciphered writing on the tablet in an ancient language related to Hebrew. According to Galil, the inscription contains a curse that was likely the work of “sophisticated magicians” who held “voodoo ceremonies.” Christopher Rollston, a leading authority on ancient Semitic inscriptions, is skeptical:
I am far from convinced that this is an “inscription.” In fact, one could make an entirely plausible case that these are not letters but repetitive decorative motifs and striations.
Here is Galil’s translation of it: “Cursed, cursed, you will surely die; Cursed, cursed, you will surely die; Governor of the City, you will surely die; Cursed, you will surely die; Cursed, you will surely die; Cursed, you will surely die.”
Although it is perhaps possible that there is some sort of “inscription” here, these readings and translation of Galil’s are not at all convincing. . . . But Galil’s assertion about this putative inscription’s importance pales in comparison with some of the rest of his claims.
According to Galil, “the new inscription proves that Jerusalem was not only a fortified city, but also a very important cultural and cultic center.” I too believe that Jerusalem was an important center at this time, and I believe that Jerusalem was fortified during the 2nd millennium BCE (the period from which this “inscription” putatively hails). However, according to Galil’s own readings, this inscription does not mention any city or its fortifications! So . . . even if someone were to embrace Galil’s readings, the “inscription” cannot carry the freight with which he is saddling it.