Abstract

The identification of so many inscriptions from private collections as well as in archaeological excavations raises new questions about the role of reading and writing in ancient Israel. In this respect, the question is not merely one of whether there were scribes who could read and write but also the larger questions of who were the practitioners of this art and where they might be found. Does the evidence provide any clues as to their geographical and social location? Were they limited to the largest urban centers where concerns of administration and royal propaganda might require their presence; or were they also to be found in small towns and rural environments? This study examines the questions of literacy in the light of the inscriptional evidence, the ancient Near Eastern context, and the comparative anthropological discussion.

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