An inscribed gold plate 2.2 centimeters in length has been uncovered in a third-century AD Jewish burial. The burial, that of a young child, is located in a Roman cemetery in Halbturn, Austria. The news was released by archaeologists at the University of Vienna's Institute of Prehistory and Early History.
One gold and three silver-plated amulets inscribed with pagan magical texts were found in a stone sarcophagus in the cemetery. The gold-plated Jewish amulet differs in that, rather than bearing a magical text, it is inscribed with the Jewish prayer known as the Shema ("hear"), found in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord." Like the text inscribed on the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, it is scriptural in nature. The inscription shares another feature with the Nephite record: though the text is Hebrew, it is written using a non-Hebrew alphabet, in this case Greek. The Book of Mormon also employed Egyptian characters in its composition.1
Comparing 1 Nephi 1:2 with Mormon 9:32—33, one has the impression that the Nephites employed the "reformed Egyptian" script for transcribing their Hebrew language for just over a thousand years (ca. 600 BC to ca. AD 400). The new find from Austria suggests that the Jews followed a similar system for about the same period of time. The gold-plated artifact from Halbturn will be on display as part of the "The Amber Road— Evolution of a Trade Route" exhibition in the Burgenland State Museum in Eisenstadt.
by John A. Tvedtnes
retired senior resident scholar, Maxwell Institute
1. For an in-depth discussion, see John A. Tvedtnes and Stephen D. Ricks, "Jewish and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 (1996): 158—63. See also John Gee and John A. Tvedtnes, "Ancient Manuscripts Fit Book of Mormon Pattern," Insights 19 (February 1999): 3—4.