On Friday, March 3, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that the potsherd described below did not, in fact, bear an authentic Persian-era inscription. Rather, it was a re-creation made last year for educational purposes, accidentally left at the archaeological site, and then misidentified by experts. More can be read about it here.
On Monday night and Tuesday, Jews around the world will read the book of Esther, which is set in the court of the Persian king Ahasuerus—identified by modern scholars with the monarch known in Greek as Xerxes. Just in time for the holiday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a timely finding. Melanie Lidman reports:
A hiker in Israel’s Judean lowlands region recently discovered a 2,500-year-old pottery shard inscribed with the name of the Persian king Darius the Great, the father of king Ahasuerus. It is the first discovery of an inscription bearing the name of Darius I anywhere in Israel. . . . The site of the find, the ancient city of Lachish, was a prosperous city and a major administrative hub 2,500 years ago. The inscription is believed to be a receipt for goods received or shipped.
The ostracon, a potsherd that was used as a writing surface, bears an Aramaic inscription that reads “Year 24 of Darius,” dating it to 498 BCE. Darius I reigned from 522–486 BCE, during which time the Persian Achaemenid empire grew rapidly to encompass a large swath of the ancient world. But no written evidence of Darius’s reign has ever been found in Israel, until now.
More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Esther