Biblical Archaeology Review 22:2, March/April 1996
In Private Hands

Pieces of the Puzzle

By P. Kyle McCarter Jr.

I sometimes think of Biblical studies as a vast jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. The book just published by Robert Deutsch and Michael Heltzer gives us 40 new pieces of that puzzle. In comparison with the slow pace at which inscriptions like these ordinarily turn up, this is an extraordinary number to have at once.

It will take a long time to absorb and assimilate the information they contain, to tease out their implications. What follows, then, is a preliminary assessment of part of the collection. I purposely discuss some items that might seem least accessible to BAR readers. It’s not difficult to appreciate the importance of the personal seal of Jeremiah’s scribe (with or without a fingerprint). But the other items are just as interesting, even if it’s not as easy to coax their stories out of them.

Five bronze arrowheads with archaic alphabetic inscriptions are included in the collection. The inscriptions are engraved horizontally from tang to point on the blades. One face of each blade is inscribed “arrow of” followed by a personal name. On the other face is the patronymic—that is, “son of” followed by the father’s name—or the title of the person named on the first side.

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