15.12, “in full flattened contrast, enhanced 3% (produced at Megavision laboratory)”, and that is the reproduction on which my drawing is based (
Several other pictures and drawings of the inscription appear on the Qeiyafa website: , “The Ostracon from the Days of David Found at Khirbet Qeiyafa,” Tyndale Bulletin 62.1 (2011), 1-13.
Millard (6-7) conveniently summarizes the observations made by specialists who preceded him in this endeavour: Haggai Misgav accepts it as a Hebrew text, a message with continuity of meaning, not a set of unconnected words; Aaron Demsky supposes it is a scribal exercise, a list of words; Shmuel Ahituv also thinks it is a practice text; Ada Yardeni considers that it is possibly Hebrew and perhaps a list; Gershon Galil finds in it a social statement, instructions relating to slaves, widows, orphans, and aliens; Émile Puech recognizes a similar situation, and highlights the institution of kingship, as does William Shea; Millard thin it is a list of personal names, and invokes Judges (a list of the names of 77 men).'A ('alp "ox", 'Aleph, Alpha) shows three variants (all are among the examples from other sources on my table of signs, below and here): at the end of line 1 and in the middle of line 2 we can see the ox-head with its horns; the first letter in the top line has the head reclining; at the beginning of line 4 (and 5, apparently) the head is completely inverted like the Greek Alpha and Roman A; the total number is 5.
B (bayt "house", Beth, Beta) was originally square, representing a house with a doorway; here it is almost triangular with a projection curling round and downwards at the top on the right; there is one such B under the protruding part of the sherd, in line 1; then there is the sixth character in line 2; beneath that one, in line 3, is yet another B; a fairly clear B is located towards the middle of the bottom line; ; in the apparently empty space below line 5, at the beginning of a possible 6th line, a clear but ghostly white B is visible; total at least 7.
Note that in line 1, for example, dots (middle and end of the line) are the remains of letters, and are not to be regarded as punctuation marks.
The basic source for this research is Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor (eds.) Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 47-66) on the identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa as Sha‘arayim; Chapter 14 (by the epigraphist Haggai Misgav and the editors, pp.
L (Lamed, Lambda) was a shepherd's crook (perhaps also a rope for tethering animals); there are three kinds of L in this document; (1) an inverted crook (an attested stance for this letter) follows the inverted G at the beginning of line 3; (2) the coiled type, shaped like a 6, is found in line 3 (centre); (3) its opposite appears above it in line 2, like a reversed 6; another L of type 2, looking like 6 or G, stands near the end of line 4; the second sign in line 1 may be a another G-shaped L, truncated by damage to the top of the shard, or else an inverted crook with its stem broken off (as with the damaged Taw and `ayin which follow it); the residue of a smaller version of uncertain shape appears at the other end of the line, next to the ox-head; in the bottom line there is a gap after Y, with ink marks showing, possibly L; total 7.
M (maym, mu, running water or falling water, Mem, Mu) has a vertical stance in all cases, not the horizontal set of waves which will become Greco-Roman M; the obvious examples are in line 2 (1x), line 4 (3x), line 5, third letter, and another below the M in the middle of line 4 and above the D in line 5, which has taken a depressed position to make room for the M; it is possible that the three dots at the end of the top line of writing are the remains of a Mem, rather than punctuation marks; there are dots and traces of M at the beginning and end of line 3; total 8.G (gaml, Gimel, Gamma) was a boomerang, or throw-stick; one example, uncharacteristically inverted, appears at the start of line 3; total 1.D (dalt "door", Daleth, Delta) was a door with a post, and sometimes with panels; like B it became more triangular; there is an example in the top line, standing between B and 'Aleph; another one can be reconstructed from dots between B and 'Aleph (in the same sequence of signs as in line 1, `bd); two instances in line 3, on either side of W, with the first being like a reversed D, presumably the same as the ones in lines 1 and 2, and the other is a triangle, like the example in the middle of line 5; the one in line 4 is like an oblique Roman D ; in line 5 the second D is also oblique, like the one above it in line 4.At the beginning of line 2 is a vertical example (like Sigma), and towards the end of the line a horizontal form (W-shaped) which became the standard Shin ("tooth"! T (taw "mark, signature", Taw, Tau) has always been a cross ( or x); one example stands near the end of the inscription; another is in the third position at the top; there is another possible case of T between L and B in line 3 (above Y); there is a faint possibility at the start of line 3; total 4.To test whether the occurrences of each letter in this text are commensurate with their relative frequency in a typical Classical Hebrew document, a comparison has been made with Psalm 18 (17 of the 51 verses), which is attributed to "the servant of YHWH, David".N ("snake", Nun, Nu) was clearly a snake, sometimes a cobra, sometimes a viper, but the erect cobra was the victor; a clear case is lurking in line 4; an unclear example is possible towards the end of line 3, beneath the triangular D; and in line 1, the fifth letter is N (it might be an instance of Shin, like the one at the start of line 2, but the top curve is missing here); total 3.