Published: 10:25 AM - 03-03-11
In November of 1860, David Wyrick of Newark, Ohio found an inscribed stone in a burial mound about 10 miles south of Newark. The stone is inscribed on all sides with a condensed version of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, in a peculiar form of post-Exilic square Hebrew letters. The robed and bearded figure on the front is identified as Moses in letters fanning over his head.
The inscribed stone was found inside a sandstone box, smooth on the outside, and hollowed out within to exactly hold the stone.
The Decalogue inscription begins at the non-alphabetic symbol at the top of the front, runs down the left side of the front, around every available space on the back and sides, and then back up the right side of the front to end where it begins, as though it were to be read repetitively.
David Deal and James Trimm note that the Decalogue stone fits well into the hand, and that the lettering is somewhat worn precisely where the stone would be in contact with the last three fingers and the palm if held in the left hand. Furthermore, the otherwise puzzling handle at the bottom could be used to secure the stone to the left arm with a strap. They conclude that the Decalogue stone was a Jewish arm phylactery or tefilla (also written t'filla) of the Second Temple period. Although the common Jewish tefilla does not contain the words of the Decalogue, Moshe Shamah reports that the Qumran sect did include the Decalogue in their tefilimot.
Cyrus Gordon, on the other hand, interprets the Newark Decalogue stone, like the Los Lunas NM Decalogue inscription, as a Samaritan mezuzah.
The Decalogue stone measures 6-7/8" (17.5 cm) long, 2-7/8" (7.3 cm) wide, and 1-3/4" (4.2 cm) thick (as measured from cast).
Several months earlier, in June of 1860, Wyrick had found an additional stone, also inscribed in Hebrew letters. This stone, shown above, is popularly known as the "Keystone" because of its general shape. However, it is too rounded to have actually served as a keystone. It was apparently intended to be held with the knob in the right hand, and turned to read the four sides in succession, perhaps repetitively. It might also have been suspended by the knob for some purpose. Although it is not pointed enough to have been a plumb bob, it could have served as a pendulum.
The material of the Keystone has been identified, probably by geologist Charles Whittlesey immediately after its discovery, as novaculite, a very hard fine-grained siliceous rock used for whetstones. The photographs here show its natural color.
Carved on four sides,they read as follows:
Qedosh Qedoshim, "Holy of Holies"
Melek Eretz, "King of the Earth"
Torath YHWH, "The Law of God"
Devor YHWH, "The Word of God"
Wyrick found the Keystone within what is now a developed section of Newark, at the bottom of a pit adjacent to the extensive ancient Hopewellian earthworks there (c. 100 BC - 500 AD). Although the pit was surely ancient, and the stone was covered with 12-14" of earth, it is impossible to say when the stone fell into the pit. It is therefore not inconceivable that the Keystone is genuine but somehow modern.
The letters on the Keystone are nearly standard Hebrew, rather than the very peculiar alphabet of the Decalogue stone. These letters were already developed at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls (circa 200-100 B.C.), and so are broadly consistent with any time frame from the Hopewellian era to the present.
For the past 1000 years or so, Hebrew has most commonly been written with vowel points and consonant points that are missing on both the Decalogue and Keystone. The absence of points is therefore suggestive, but not conclusive, of an earlier date.
It should be noted, however, that in 1863, a year before Wyrick's death, he did express a suspicion that he had been the victim of a hoax, in a letter to Joseph Henry, then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Nevertheless, a close examination of the letter shows that this suspicion is entirely based on faulty chronological reasoning on Wyrick's part.
Edited by Brenda Booth
Source & References: http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/decalog.html
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