David Meadows posted the following call for help reading the scratched inscription on an ossuary in Jerusalem. Can any epigraphically trained readers help decipher the Greek letters? (We’ve help crowdsourced readings and e-seminars before, so I’m hopeful our readers have the expertise to help with this.)
To begin: the inscription is found one of a number of ossuaries still in situ in a tomb in Jerusalem, so we’re dealing with a funerary context. The inscription is only seen in photos (of varying quality) because the tomb was explored via a robotic camera. When the tomb was originally excavated back in 1980 or thereabouts, the inscription itself does not seem to have been recorded (or if it was, it has not been published). Further complicating things is the fact that the ossuaries were moved around and there are plenty of scratches thereon, which may or may not be affecting the reading of this inscription. Amongst the artifacts found in association with the ossuary inscription was this pot:
… such pots are conventionally dated (as far as I’m aware) to the first centuries B.C./B.C.E. to the first century A.D./C.E.. The inscription itself has been presented in a number of photos of varying quality (clicking on the images should bring up larger versions; if not, links to the original photos can be found at the end of this post):
The one I was working from is a variation on the first (it has some circles); it’s probably identical save for the circles:
The following ‘excerpts’ come from this image and have been zoomed 50% … the first line:
- it seems to read DIOS, but why would such a word be on what is likely a Jewish ossuary?
- it is assumed to be one word in some readings; perhaps it carries over to the next line?
- might it be connected to a month name in the Seleucid calendar (were those month names still being used?
- does this carry over from the previous line?
- is the first letter an iota, a tau, or maybe even a gamma?
- are there only four letters here or are there perhaps more?
- is the first letter a tau, an upsilon, or some combination letter (sometimes referred to as a compendia)?
- how many letters are there in this line?
- is that Y-shaped thing an upsilon or a psi (is that a scratch or a branch)?
- is there a small tau beside that or is that just a scratch?
- again, how many letters are here?
- are those letters alpha, gamma, beta or is the second letter a mu or a pi?
- is the last letter a beta or something with a ligature?