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Title: The Lachish letters : a reappraisal of the Ostraca discovered in 1935 and 1938 at Tell ed-Duweir
Author: Zammit, Abigail
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 9165
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The 21 inscribed ceramic sherds (or ostraca) known as the "Lachish Letters", which were discovered during the British Mandate Period excavations of Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish), underwent eighty years of scholarship that improved our understanding of at least some of these inscriptions. The archive is terse and fragmentary, and the least well-preserved and faded ostraca from this collection have been seriously overlooked, ironically when the "Lachish Letters" have more or less been regarded as a homogenous group of documents written during the final decades of the Judahite kingdom. Some of the ostraca were discovered in different stratigraphic contexts and pertaining to different settings, if not timeframes. The principal aim of this study is to produce an updated edition of these ostraca by objectively and systematically reassessing and understanding these artefacts, the inscriptions they bear, and their respective stratigraphic layers and archaeological contexts. This is carried out by integrating past studies and modern-day developments on the ostraca (and the site itself) from different perspectives: archaeology, palaeography, philology, the Hebrew Bible, and Classical Hebrew studies. This interdisciplinary approach enables a revision of outstanding controversial issues and a dismissal of outdated proposals on the readings, interpretation, and import of these ostraca in their contemporary world. Despite the illegibility of some inscriptions, this study pays attention to all 21 ostraca via physical examination under the lens, to confirm or deny any dubious readings as far as the naked eye can tell us. A crucial criterion is the integration of photographic data and written documentation gathered from unpublished and archived material of the Mandate Period that were accessible to the author at the time of writing. The study concludes that this surviving group of ostraca is far from homogeneous, and there still exist lacunae in their historico-archaeological contexts and interpretations. Our understanding of the source and function of the ostraca (especially the few legible messages and lists of names) remains riddled with controversies, which derive from the fragmentary nature of the corpus and the limitations in the documentation and preservation of these artefacts.
Supervisor: Williamson, Hugh G. M. Sponsor: Malta Government ; Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Lachish Letters ; Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) ; Classical Hebrew ; Archaeology of Ancient Israel ; North-west Semitic Epigraphy ; Book of Jeremiah ; Ostraca ; British Mandate of Palestine