Washington, September 10 (ANI): Archaeologists in Jerusalem have found a mystery vessel dating back to biblical times 2,000 years ago, which has ten lines of mysterious script written on it.
"These were common stone mugs that appear in all Jewish households of the time", lead excavator Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, told the National Geographic News.
"But this is the first time an inscription has been found on a stone vessel" of this type, he said.
Deciphering the writing could provide a window into daily life or religious ritual in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus Christ.
Working on historic Mount Zion-site of King David's tomb and the Last Supper-the archaeologists found the cup near a ritual pool this summer.
The dig site is in what had been an elite residential area near the palace of King Herod the Great, who ruled Israel shortly before the birth of Jesus.
From the objects that surrounded it, Gibson determined that the cup dated from some time between 37 B.C. and A.D. 70, when the Romans nearly destroyed Jerusalem after a Jewish revolt.
Among the dig's other finds are ruins spanning the time of the founding of King Solomon's Temple, around 970 B.C., to the destruction of Jerusalem by Christian crusaders in A.D. 1099.
Aside from the inscription, the cup, which was found in three fragments, isn't unusual, according to archaeologists. Such stone mugs were popular among Jews at the time, thanks to purity rules.
Like people who keep kosher today, Jews in Jesus's day followed a complex code when it came to food and drink.
"Personally, I believe these were used for ritual purification of hands before a meal," study leader Gibson said.
What sets the newfound cup apart is its inscription, which is still sharply etched but so far impossible to understand.
Similar to intentionally enigmatic writing in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the cup's script appears to be a secret code, written in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, the two written languages used in Jerusalem at the time.
"They wrote it intending it to be cryptic," Gibson said.
In hopes the script can be deciphered, Gibson's team is sharing pictures of the cup with experts on the writing of the period.
The researchers also plan to post detailed photos of the cup and its inscriptions online soon.
"They could be instructions on how to use (the cup), could have incantations or curses. But it's not going to be something mundane like a shopping list," said Gibson. (ANI)