When archaeologists stumbled upon hundreds of shards of pottery at the Khirbet Qeiyafa biblical site near Jerusalem in 2012, they noticed letters in ancient Canaanite on some of the pieces and began the work of putting the 3,000-year-old jar back together. What they found was the inscription of a name, Eshba'al Ben Beda' (spelled Bada' in some sources), which bears some resemblance to Eshba'al Ben Shaul, the ruler of Israel in the 10th century BC, reports LiveScience. Over several seasons of excavations at this site, which dates to the time of King David, archaeologists have also unearthed two gates, a palace, storerooms, dwellings, and cultic rooms.
The team says the finding is an indication that writing was far more widespread at this point than previously thought, and also that Eshba'al Ben Beda' was likely a prominent figure—possibly the owner of a large agricultural estate, which would have sent out its goods in jars bearing his name. "The name Beda' is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition," one researcher tells the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Eshba'al "was a common name only during" the reign of David. (Check out why archaeologists dubbed this find "sleeping beauty.")