A.P. Fri Nov 11, 9:50 AM ET
JERUSALEM - Archaeologists digging at the purported biblical home of Goliath have unearthed a shard of pottery bearing an inscription of the Philistine's name, a find they claimed lends historical credence to the Bible's tale of David's battle with the giant.
While the discovery is not definitive evidence of Goliath's existence, it does support the Bible's depiction of life at the time the battle was supposed to have occurred, said Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Bar-Ilan University and director of the excavation.
"What this means is that at the time there were people there named Goliath," he said. "It shows us that David and Goliath's story reflects the cultural reality of the time." In the story, David slew Goliath with a slingshot.
Some scholars assert the story of David slaying the giant Goliath is a myth written down hundreds of years later. Maeir said finding the scraps lends historical credence to the biblical story.
The shard dates back to around 950 B.C., within 70 years of when biblical chronology asserts David squared off against Goliath, making it the oldest Philistine inscription ever found, the archaeologists said.
Scientists made the discovery at Tel es-Safi, a dig site in southern Israel thought to be to be the location of the Philistine city of Gath.
A very small ceramic shard unearthed by Bar-Ilan University archaeologists digging at Tell es-Safi, the biblical city "Gath of the Philistines," may hold a very large clue into the history of the well-known biblical figure Goliath.
The shard, which contains the earliest known Philistine inscription ever to be discovered, mentions two names that are remarkably similar to the name "Goliath".
The discovery is of particular importance since the Bible attributes Gath as the home town of Goliath. "Gath of the Philistines," was one of the major cities of the Philistines, the well-known arch-enemies of the Israelites in the biblical text.
Professor Aren Maeir, Chairman of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, told The Jerusalem Post that the odds of this being the actual Goliath referred to in the Bible are "small if non-existent."
Professor Maeir explained that this find could chronologically be placed some 50 years after the story of David and Goliath was to have taken place.
Furthermore, according to Prof. Maeir, Goliath was a very popular type of name at the time.
Regardless of the low odds, the archaeological find may be seen as the first clear extra-biblical evidence that the story of the battle between David and Goliath may be more than just a legend.
Written in archaic "Proto-Canaanite" letters, the inscription found on the shard, dating to the 10th or early 9th century BCE, contains two non-Semitic names: Alwt and Wlt. Most scholars believe the name Goliath, of non-Semitic origin, is etymologically related to various Indo-European names, such as the Lydian name Aylattes.
Following intense examination of the inscription, Prof. Meir (along with his colleagues Prof. Aaron Demsky, an expert in epigraphy at Bar-Ilan University, and Dr. Stefan Wimmer, of Munich University) has concluded that the two names which appear in the inscription are remarkably similar to the etymological parallels of Goliath.