A man hiking though south central Israel has discovered a shard of pottery over 2,500-years-old that is believed to be an ancient receipt, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday. Also inscribed on the fragment is the name Darius I, the first mention of the famous Persian king found in any archaeological site in the area. The news was first reported in the Times of Israel.
The 2,500-year-old pottery shard, known as an ostracon when used as a surface for writing, was found in the remains of the Persian royal administration building in the ancient city of Lachish, the one-time administrative hub of the area. The inscription written in Aramaic reads “year 24 of Darius”, which dates the artifact to 498 B.C.E.
The ostracon was found in December by Eylon Levy who works as the international media adviser to Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Levy told Times of Israel that the artifact was laying in plain sight.
“[It] was right there, directly next the wooden pergola that had been built for the visitors,” said Levy. “It was right there, right under everyone’s noses this whole time. Immediately when I picked it up, I thought it was an elaborate prank. I thought, this can’t be real, this doesn’t really happen to people when they’re just hiking”.
Levy quickly contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority which, after a barrage of tests and scans, and a stint at the Dead Sea Scrolls Lab, deemed the ostracon authentic.
Darius I was one of the most famous Persian kings, and ruled when the Persian empire was at its largest, spanning much of the South West Asia and parts of Northern Africa. His son and successor, King Ahaseurus, is better known by his Greek name, Xerxes. Ahaseurus is thought to be the biblical king Achashverosh, a central character in the story of the Jewish holiday Purim, which is celebrated from the evening of March 6th to the evening of March 7.