From Channel Nine News, Fri, 08 Jan 2010:
A 3,000-year-old inscription discovered at a site where the Bible says David slew Goliath has been deciphered, showing it to be the earliest known Hebrew writing, Israeli archaeologists said on Thursday.
The pottery shard with five lines of text in the proto-Canaanite script that was used by Hebrews, Philistines and others in the region was discovered 18 months ago.
The writing was decrypted by Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who "has shown this is a Hebrew inscription", said a statement from the university. "The discovery makes it the earliest known Hebrew writing," the statement said.
Carbon-dating has shown the inscription dates back to the 10th century BC, making it about 1,000 years older than the Dead Sea scrolls.
"This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans," said Galil, adding that both the words and the concepts used were specific to the Hebrew language and society.
The shard was found near the gate of a site known as Elah Fortress, about 30km west of Jerusalem, in the valley where the battle between David and Goliath is said to have taken place. Finding such an early example of Hebrew makes it possible the Bible could have been written several centuries before the current estimates, the statement said. "The inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures, but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text, the statement said.