A papyrus letter dubbed the “Ishmael Papyrus” was recently repatriated from the United States to Israel. According to press reports (see below), the papyrus fragment was either purchased or obtained as a gift by a lady who was visiting the Qumran area in 1965. Her son was recently located and brought the fragment back to Israel. The papyrus fragment is 5 cm wide by 4 cm high (1.5 in. wide by 2 in. high) and contains four lines of text, including the words “To Ishmael, send...of no help…” The papyrus itself has been carbon-dated to the late seventh or early sixth century BC. The inscription itself has also been dated to the same time period based on epigraphy. Only two other papyri from Iron Age Israel are known: one that mentions the name of Jerusalem and was confiscated from the antiquities market, and one that was discovered in Wadi Murabba’at and is a bill of sale. Some have urged caution due to the fact that forgers have, in the past, used ancient material to produce fake artifacts.
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