A New Discovery in Jerusalem[1]

On 7 July 1880, Albert Socin published an article informing the readers of the Journal of the German Palestine Association of a new discovery in Jerusalem. That discovery would become known as the Siloam Inscription. The Siloam Inscription is important for Shapira studies for reasons unrecognized and unappreciated. I cover some of these in The Moses Scroll and am presently working on a major study that will reveal even more.[I] Also see my article, Shapira and the Inscription of Siloam on this blog.

(Translator’s Note – The following article was originally published as, Albert Socin, “Eine neue Entdeckung in Jerusalem,” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palaestina-Vereins, (Leipzig: 1880), 54-55.)

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Under the date of June 22 of this year, Mr. Baurath Schick in Jerusalem reports on a recently found inscription, which could perhaps be of the greatest importance for the topography of ancient Jerusalem. Some boys were bathing at the mouth of the rock channel, which leads down from the Mary Spring to the Siloah pond. The boys seem to have teased each other while they were bathing; one of Schick’s students, who was among them, went a little deeper into the rock tunnel; in his haste he stumbled over boulders into the water, and looking around as he got up, he noticed small marks on the rock face. However, he was not quite sure whether these lines were letters. When the boy had told Mr. Schick about the matter, he went and actually found the place indicated. About 8 meters from the entrance, on the eastern rock face, there was a smooth and evenly worked out, formerly polished surface, while the rock is otherwise left raw. This surface forms a kind of table 0.60 m wide and at least as high; its lower end extends into the water. On the tablet is an inscription of eight to ten lines; (whether and how many such are still below the water surface could not initially be determined). The characters on the tablet are small and fine and seemed to Mr. Schick to be similar or the same as those on the Mesha stone. Unfortunately, the stone carver did not engrave the characters roughly and thickly enough; in addition, over time they have been disfigured by the accumulation of silicates. The copy that Mr. Schick took from the inscription was therefore not favorable; but it is to be hoped that an exact drawing would make some 

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individual characters stand out more clearly, since these, although partly filled in with silicates, stand out on the other hand through different coloring. Such a drawing is not yet available.

Opposite the tablet there is a niche in the rock, probably for the purpose of putting up a lamp; evidence that the inscription was carved in situ. Above the panel, the rock channel is just two meters high to the ceiling; the water is about 0.3 m deep and runs over boulders. Mr. Schick suspects that the rocky ground would be found at a depth of about one meter. Since anyone who slips through the rock channel can only wind their way through with difficulty in some places because of the high water level, it can be assumed that there is a lot of rubble and dirt in the tunnel: the workers who drilled it must at least do this in a seated position, and the current low position of the inscription also indicates a large accumulation of rubble. In his letter, Mr. Schick now proposes cleaning the rock canal at least up to the point where the inscription is found and ensuring that the water drains to the Siloah pond. This would perhaps solve the question of where the water flows into the rock channel and whether, as Herr Schick suspects, there are other tributaries inside the shaft apart from the main tributary, perhaps also what the “wrong passages” are about.

We hope to be able to tell our readers soon more about the inscription and any work on the rock canal. It would be of great interest if it were possible to read the inscription, since we can probably assume that its content is an account of the tunnel boring. The characters, which we were able to decipher on the copy with certainty: jod, mem, samech, ‘ajin, seemed to Professor Kautsch and to me to be of a very ancient form. We owe all the more to Mr. Schick for the quick notification of this interesting find.

Tübingen, July 7, 1880.                                                                                              A. Socin.

[1] Submitted after the editing of this issue was completed. D. R. 

[i] See, Ross K. Nichols, The Moses Scroll, (Saint Francisville: Horeb Press, 2021), 29-31.