Iron Age, reign of Mesha, king of Moab (c. 830-805 BC)
H 110 cm, W 68 cm. Dhiban, Madaba Governorate.
Replica produced by the Louvre (Paris) where the original basalt stone work is exhibited.
Inscribed in the Moabite language, which is one of the northwestern Semitic dialects closely related to Aramaic, the stele talks about King's Mesha' leadership, and lists his military and architectural accomplishments. It also offers the Moabite version of the biblical narrative in Kings II:3. At that time the land of Moab was prey to even more anarchy than usual, and subject to repeated invasions from the Israelites. It was definitely the moment for a strong leader to declare himself, and from what we know of him, Mesha was just that.
The importance of this stele also lies in its date, which is 841 or 842 BC, thus it is among the earliest known local sources from the Iron Age Kingdoms in Jordan.
An Important Jordanian Historical Document
In 1868, a German missionary, who was travelling between Salt and Karak was shown a large basalt stone at Dhiban which was inscribed with strange characters. He copied a few characters and when word spread among the European communities, obtaining the stele became a competition between the German, French and British. Arguments about its ownership and value, in addition to interference from the Ottoman authorities, resulted in the locals setting fire to the stele in November 1869 and breaking it into pieces. Squeezes (impressions made in papier mache) taken of the text, however, enabled its reconstruction after the French scholar Clermont-Ganneau purchased the fragments for the Louvre Museum in Paris.
© Text: The Jordan Museum
© Photo: Haupt & Binder
Exhibits from the periods between 3600 and 332 BC, with additional information. Part of the visual informative tour through The Jordan Museum in Amman.