Ahiram or Ahirom was the Phoenician king of Byblos (ca. 1000 BC [The date remains the subject of controversy, according to Glenn E. Markoe, "The Emergence of Phoenician Art" "Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research" No. 279 (August 1990):13-26) p. 13. "Most scholars have taken the Ahiram inscription to date from around 1000 B.C.E.", notes Edward M. Cook, "On the Linguistic Dating of the Phoenician Ahiram Inscription (KAI 1)", "Journal of Near Eastern Studies" 53.1 (January 1994:33-36) p. 33 [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2968(199401)53%3A1%3C33%3AOTLDOT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C JSTOR] . Cook analyses and dismisses the date in the thirteenth century adopted by C. Garbini, "Sulla datazione della'inscrizione di Ahiram", "Annali" (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples) 37 (1977:81-89), which was the prime source for early dating urged in cite book |title=Cadmean Letters: The Transmission of the Alphabet to the Aegean and further West before 1400 BC |last=Bernal |first=Martin |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1990 |publisher=Eisenbrauns |location=Winona Lake, Ind. |isbn=0931464471 |pages= ] ) Ahiram was succeeded by his son Ittobaal as king of Byblos. [cite journal |last=Vance |first=Donald R. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1994 |month= |title=Literary Sources for the History of Palestine and Syria: The Phœnician Inscriptions |journal=The Biblical Archaeologist |volume=57 |issue=1 |pages=2-19 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quote= ]


The sarcophagus of Ahiram was discovered by the French archaeologist Pierre Montet in 1923cite journal |last=Torrey |first=Charles C. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1925 |month= |title=The Ahiram Inscription of Byblos |journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society |volume=45 |issue= |pages=269-279 |id= |url=http://www.jstor.org/pss/593505 |accessdate= |quote= ] in Jebeil, the historic Byblos. [cite book |title=Archaeology and the Old Testament |last=Pritchard |first=James B. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1968 |publisher=Univ. Press |location=Princeton |isbn= |pages= ; cite book |title=The Phoenicians |last=Moscati |first=Sabatino |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2001 |publisher=Tauris |location=London |isbn=1850435332 |pages= ; Reinhard G. Lehmann, "Die Inschrift(en) des Ahirom-Sarkophags und die Schachtinschrift des Grabes V in Jbeil (Byblos)", (Mainz), 2005 (Forschungen zur phönizisch-punischen und zyprischen Plastik, hg. von Renate Bol, II.1. Dynastensarkophage mit szenischen Reliefs aus Byblos und Zypern Teil 1.2)] . Its low relief carved panels make it "the major artistic document for the Early Iron Age" in Phoenicia.cite journal |last=Markoe |first=Glenn E. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1990 |month= |title=The Emergence of Phoenician Art |journal=Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research |volume=279 |issue= |pages=13-26 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quote= [pp. 13, 19-22] ] Associated items dating to the Late Bronze Age either support an early dating, in the thirteenth century BC or attest the reuse of an early shaft tomb in the eleventh century BC.The major scene represents a king seated on a throne carved with winged sphinxes. A priestess offers him a lotus flower. On the lid two male figures confront one another with addorsed seated lions between them, read by Glenn Markoe as a reference to the father and son of the inscription. Egyptian influence that is a character of Late Bronze Age art in northwest Canaan is replaced here by Assyrian influences in the rendering of figures and the design of the throne and a table. A total absence of Egyptian objects of the 20th and 21st dynasties in Phoenicia [J. Leclant, "Les relations entre l'Égypte et la Phénicie du voyage de Ounamon à l'expédition d'Alexandre", in "The role of the Phoenicians in the Interaction of Mediterranean Civilisations", W. Ward, ed. (Beirut: American University) 1968:11.] contrasts sharply with the resumption of Phoenician-Egyptian ties in the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt.

The inscription on the sarcophagus [Torrey (1925) described another brief inscription "halfway down the shaft" in which the sarcophagus was found; it had been first published, as a warning to an excavator not to proceed further, by René Dussaud, in "Syria" 5 (1924:135-57).] is the oldest evidence of the Phoenician alphabet discovered to date:

The following is the translation of the inscription:

Coffin which Ittobaal, son of Ahiram, king of Byblos, made for Ahiram, his father, when he placed him in the 'house of eternity'. Now if a king among kings or a governor among governors or a commander of an army should come up against Byblos and uncovers this coffin, may the sceptre of his rule be torn away, may the throne of his kingdom be overturned, and may peace flee from Byblos! And as for him, if he destroys this inscription, then the...! [cite book |title=The Ancient Near East: c.3000-330 B.C. |last=Kuhrt |first=Amélie |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1995 |publisher=Routledge |location=London |isbn=0415167620 |pages=404 ]

The formulas of the inscription were immediately recognised as literary in nature, and the assured cutting of the archaic letters suggested to Charles Torrey a form of writing already in common use. A tenth-century BC date for the inscription has become widely accepted.


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