3,700 Years Old – Scientists Discover the First Sentence Ever Written in Canaanite

Ancient Ivory Comb

The ancient ivory comb Credit: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The Hebrew University has discovered an ivory comb from 1700 BCE that is inscribed with a plea to rid oneself of lice. The inscription reads: “May this [ivory] tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”

The alphabet was developed around 1800 BCE and was used by the Canaanites and later, many other languages throughout the world. Until recently, there had been very few Canaanite inscriptions found in the Land of Israel, with only a few isolated words having been discovered. However, a recent discovery has changed this, as an entire sentence in Canaanite was found engraved on a small ivory comb. This sentence, which dates back to around 1700 BCE, contains a spell against lice.

The small ivory comb containing an entire sentence in Canaanite, dating back to around 1700 BCE, was discovered at Tel Lachish in Israel by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Southern Adventist University. The team was led by Professors Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel, and Martin Klingbeil. The inscription on the comb was deciphered by Dr. Daniel Vainstub, a Semitic epigraphist at Ben Gurion University. The ivory was tested by Professors Rivka Rabinovich and Yuval Goren and was found to have come from an elephant tusk. The team’s findings were published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.

Aerial view of Tel Lachish

Aerial view of Tel Lachish. Credit: Emil Aladjem

The letters of the inscription were engraved in a very shallow manner. It was excavated in 2017 but the letters were noticed only in subsequent post-processing in 2022 by Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu. It was cleaned and preserved by Miriam Lavi.

Yosef Garfinkel

Hebrew University Professor Yosef Garfinkel. Credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The ivory comb is small, measuring roughly 3.5 by 2.5 cm. The comb has teeth on both sides. Although their bases are still visible, the comb teeth themselves were broken in antiquity. The central part of the comb is somewhat eroded, possibly by the pressure of fingers holding the comb during haircare or the removal of lice from the head or beard. The side of the comb with six thick teeth was used to untangle knots in the hair, while the other side, with 14 fine teeth, was used to remove lice and their eggs, much like the current-day two-sided lice combs sold in stores.

There are 17 Canaanite letters on the comb. They are archaic in form—from the first stage of the invention of the alphabet script. They form seven words in Canaanite, reading: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”

“This is the first sentence ever found in the Canaanite language in Israel. There are Canaanites in Ugarit in Syria, but they write in a different script, not the alphabet that is used today. The Canaanite cities are mentioned in Egyptian documents, the Amarna letters that were written in Akkadian, and in the Hebrew Bible. The comb inscription is direct evidence of the use of the alphabet in daily activities some 3700 years ago. This is a landmark in the history of the human ability to write,” shared Garfinkel.

Ancient combs were made from wood, bone, or ivory. Ivory was a very expensive material and likely an imported luxury object. As there were no elephants in Canaan during that time period, the comb likely came from nearby Egypt—factors indicating that even people of high social status suffered from lice.

The research team analyzed the comb itself for the presence of lice under a microscope and photographs were taken of both sides. Remains of head lice, 0.5–0.6 mm in size, were found on the second tooth. The climatic conditions of Lachish, however, did not allow the preservation of whole head lice but only those of the outer chitin membrane of the nymph stage head louse.

Despite its small size, the inscription on the comb from Lachish has very special features, some of which are unique and fill in gaps and lacunas in our knowledge of many aspects of the culture of Canaan in the Bronze Age. For the first time, we have an entire verbal sentence written in the dialect spoken by the Canaanite inhabitants of Lachish, enabling us to compare this language in all its aspects with the other sources for it. Second, the inscription on the comb sheds light on some hitherto poorly attested aspects of the everyday life of the time, haircare and dealing with lice.

Third, this is the first discovery in the region of an inscription referring to the purpose of the object on which it was written, as opposed to dedicatory or ownership inscriptions on objects. Further, the engraver’s skill in successfully executing such tiny letters (1–3 mm wide) is a fact that from now on should be taken into account in any attempt to summarize and draw conclusions on literacy in Canaan in the Bronze Age.

Lachish was a major Canaanite city-state in the second millennium BCE and the second most important city in the Biblical Kingdom of Judah. To date, 10 Canaanite inscriptions have been found in Lachish, more than at any other site in Israel. The city was the major center for the use and preservation of the alphabet for some 600 years, from 1800-1150 BCE. The site of Tel Lachish is under the protection of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Reference: “A Canaanite’s Wish to Eradicate Lice on an Inscribed Ivory Comb from Lachish” by Daniel Vainstub, Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Michael G. Hasel, Katherine M. Hesler, Miriam Lavi, Rivka Rabinovich, Yuval Goren and Yosef Garfinkel, 2022, Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.
DOI: 10.52486/01.00002.4

28 Comments on "3,700 Years Old – Scientists Discover the First Sentence Ever Written in Canaanite"

  1. To whomever wrote this headline: This most certainly isn’t the first sentence ever written in Canaanite. It might be the first KNOWN sentence written in Canaanite.

  2. Niko Bella Khouf | January 2, 2023 at 7:58 am | Reply

    There was no kingdom of Judah. The discovery was made in the Land of Canaan, which is known as Palestine today

    • Falasteen Taj rassak | January 3, 2023 at 5:44 am | Reply

      Hello, you’re right. How are you? Were you on Google+ By chance? Do you remember me نور ؟

    • Lacreshia Strain | January 8, 2023 at 2:05 am | Reply

      Are you freaking serious right now there was a king of Judah and Yahweh God. You have no idea what you’re talking about before those caucasians come over here and enslaved us there was a land of Judah and city of David and they were all African Americans f****** idiot

    • Lacreshia Strain | January 8, 2023 at 2:06 am | Reply

      Oh my bad typo not African Americans they were all of colored descent

  3. You people are nutz. The evidence of manufactured stone monuments all over the world is astounding. Manufactured with precision machinery here long before us Congress should cut off all of your tax free funding until you stop lying.

  4. Alexander J Malkoon | January 2, 2023 at 12:36 pm | Reply

    Fascinating find! Interesting how there is no mention of the names Lebanon, or Phoenicia, which Canaanites and this land at that time were linked historically, phonetically, politically, linguistically, geographically and alphabetically.

    I’m glad this location is in Israel and not Lebanon today or we would not have had this valuable excavation, but it appears the authors have gone out of their way to erroneously Israelize this find using presentism and today’s current borders.

    The reader should know the map of Canaan including this part of Israel was mostly tied to present-day Lebanon.

  5. I feel like the inscription was from a healer or an esoteric and was meant to be a blessing/spell to go along with the comb to remove lice.

  6. First sentence in Canaanite? Umm, I would think it would be more in line with: A bunch of religious fanatics just moved in next door. Sure hope they don’t make trouble.

  7. Beautiful find. Demonstrates that there was a sophisticated use of the language at the time and can be validated with the history in the Bible.

  8. Chris from Canada | January 3, 2023 at 5:35 am | Reply

    This story is interesting, but first of all, get rid of the BXE crap! It’s B.C. – before Christ, not “before the common era” and security, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but Adam (and Eve) came fully programmed by God, so they were able to write in full alphabetical sentences, (about 4,000 B.C.) though there likely is no evidence of this left on earth today, due to the worldwide flood. But I must reiterate that this is a very interesting story and a fascinating piece of archaeology!

    • How do you know they came “pre-programmed” if there was no evidence of that? And before you say “it says so in the bible” it doesn’t.

  9. Zionists are th!eves | January 3, 2023 at 5:40 am | Reply

    Utter typical nonsense with Zionists and their Eastern European Jewish names like abramovitch. Joke of the century.

  10. W X Y….


  11. Very interesting. Since the Children of Israel originate really as a Canaanite tribe. Hebrew obviously goes back to that language. That they were generally literate is also very interesting. It is apparent of course that the Jews considered literacy very important.

  12. Afan ofMichaelCremo | January 3, 2023 at 11:28 am | Reply

    WHY are there still a vast amounts of Summerian tablet s not decoded much older, and ignored? Oh yea, we don’t like what they say….

  13. This sentence is not the first sentence ever written in Canaanite as you know. This is The First Full Sentence Written in Canaanite ever discovered.
    The difference is huge. Smaller fonts could help.

  14. The Africans gave you your languages and education. You should thank them from time too time.

    • Lacreshia Strain | January 8, 2023 at 2:16 am | Reply

      Exactly. Thank you for your correct knowledge…the entire land belongs to African or colored people until they didn’t obey Yahweh and the White demons enslaved our people and stole our land as they sold and stole our freedom..time will come when those people will have no choice. The truth is coming in due time and we will regain all our land. Every man and woman and children of the world will soon see. The truth

      • Marrian Stinson | March 25, 2023 at 4:22 pm | Reply

        You are so right please, look up the root word for Japheth it is pâthâh and is not enlarged. It means deceitful, roomy. Strong clearly says at first roomy is mental illness, also gullible, and silly. The Canaanites were Black people, they came from Ham. Noah got drunk and he was naked in his tent. Canaan heard his grandfather and saw him naked. The three brothers were coming to the tent. Ham heard his son, went in realized his father was naked, and called out to his brothers to come and covered up their father. Noah woke up mad that his grandson saw him drunk and naked. He should have apologized to Canaan and asked YAHWEH for forgiveness. Canaan also produced the Asian people and Japheth produced the Mongolians! The Canaanites knew YAHWEH first, they started worshiping Baal (lord in English), the Egyptian deity so did the Hebrews. Melchizedek a black man was a King and High Priest of EOAH which is a TITLE! His city was Urusilm and David changed the name to Yarusalem. The most notable line of YAHSHUA women comes from the Canaanites. The Jews who are Japheth decedents are not from Shem! If you read your Bible. Tamar had twins by Judah, her father in law Gen chapter 38, Rahab had Boaz, and Ruth a mixture of Lot and his daughter. Lot’s wife a Sodomite turned into a pillar of salt! Ruth married Boaz. They had Obed, who had Jesse, who had David. Bethsheba is a Gilonite. They were a Canaanite tribe. God, was never used in ancient times nor is the word, Jew. Both are sacrilegious because they were added. The Bible says do not add or take away from it. God comes from the Greek god Zeus! Finally, YAHWEH told IsraEl, HIS House was for all people. HE is no respect if people and Abraham already knew the African language through the Phoenicians, traders, navigators, and colonizers of the sea! The fact their language lingua franca of East Africa and Mesopotamia up to Souther Turkey, the true Ur of the Chaldees! Hebrews never went into Africa to Kenya during Abraham’s time then or before. It is time to tell the Truth!

  15. The people in the comments here….what a bunch of bitter pseudo intellectuals.

  16. I don’t understand why antisemites think every article is a good opportunity to express Hate for us Jews.

  17. Pina Colapinto | January 6, 2023 at 5:55 am | Reply

    I think it’s a wonderful find and I hope that they find more evidence of all other languages that were found and anything they can share with us so we can learn from them I think it’s wonderful that we have people like this that we can learn from that can help us find out things like this for our planet

  18. Darrin McHenry | January 8, 2023 at 8:08 am | Reply

    This is an interesting article. They talk like there was no way of communicating before this time. Man has always been able to write. God has enabled us to do all things. It is just a matter of time before we figure it out. The color of man in that area does not matter. We are all one race. Just different kind(s) that God made.

  19. The truth is coming out – corrupt men called Jews were not in the land in fact biblical scripture teach this land Cannan was where a seed of Ham offspring lived , and there surrounding was Phonecian, Palestine, the scriptures teach ( Ancient Israel ) all Black Hebrews entered the land , there was a command to occupy but first remove all Cannanites. Israel could not defeat all Cannanites so it was written in scriptures they that remain from occupants in the land would forever be thorns in your side , after the fall of the kingdom under Solomon, the land was unoccupied by Hebrews …., here’s where the European Jews come in by order of Zionist not from G/D , conflict is to be blamed by Jews who stole history and land , until the end of gentiles rule , they will be wiped out of the land .

  20. Hahaha the comments here.. thanks for the entertainment. Please, most of you, go slam your heads against the first rock you find outside.

  21. The comments here reflect a cross-section of stupid and crazy. It’s not difficult to read up on the history of the area.

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