A team of scholars and scientists have analyzed Hebrew inscriptions dated to about 600 BCE, and suggest results that indicate a high degree of literacy in ancient Hebrew writing among officials of the military and administrative apparatus of the kingdom of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.
Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, Arie Shaus and colleagues of Tel Aviv University conducted an analysis* of 16 ink inscriptions in Hebrew on ancient ceramic shards (otherwise known as ‘ostraca‘) which were previously excavated from the desert fortress of Arad in southern Judah and dated to around 600 BCE. Their analysis was based on data acquired through new computerized image processing and document analysis techniques, including machine learning algorithms. The study concluded that the inscriptions were created by at least six different authors, individuals whose position or rank ranged from a top military commander down to a person who was a subordinate of the Arad fortress warehouse. More specifically, the inscriptions were connected to one unnamed Judahite military commander; Malkiyahu, the commander of the Arad fortress; one individual named Gemaryahu and another named Nehemyahu; Kittiyim officers (a Greek mercenary unit); Eliashib, who was in charge of the Arad fortress warehouse; and a subordinate of Eliashib. The King of Judah was mentioned in one ostracon as dictating the overall military strategy. Another ostracon mentioned “the house of YHWH”, meaning the Temple in Jerusalem.