The artifact in the picture, is a small (about 11 by 7 centimeters ) piece of limestone, with some letters scribbled on it. Not very impressive, is it? in fact, the picture is not even of the real stone, but of the replica, presented at the Israel museum in Jerusalem. The real stone is presented at the archeology museum in Istanbul. It was found about 100 years ago, in an excavation at Tel-Gezer, about 30 kilometers west of Jerusalem.
The stone, which is dated to the 10th century B.C. , has a calendar marked on it. Not an impressive calendar like the graphic creations of the Mayans for example, but simply a text that details the division of a year into 8 agricultural periods. The alphabet that the Gezer calendar is written in, is not the local Canaanite alphabet that was already in limited use at that time but rather a Phoenician alphabet - the leading edge alphabet of that time. It had only 22 letters and was very easy to learn. It probably should be considered as one of the most socially important inventions of all times, as it made widespread literacy possible.
But this is not all, the content of the writing on the stone, the calendar itself, is even more important. Just about up to that time, Canaan was governed by a feudal city-states system, under Egyptian supervision. As in all feudal systems, the peasants who worked the land were mostly ignorant. They were told by their landlords, when to plow, when to seed and when to harvest. They had no independent agricultural know how at all.
So a written calendar, describing agricultural periods in such circumstances would be a major challenging of the system. But then again, it couldn't be used by the illiterate peasents themselves, so who made it and why?
Well for one thing, we know the name of the person who made the Gezer calendar because he signed it at the bottom. His name was Aviah, a common Hebrew name to this day. So who was this Aviah, and why did he make the calendar?
Well no one knows for sure, but let me suggest an intriguing possibility. Maybe he was reverse-engineering the Egyptian agricultural know how. Maybe this Aviah was part of an initiative to open source agriculture by taking advantage of the new, easily spreadable Phonician writing.
Few decades later, we suddenly find that a new culture, already called by the Egyptians and other neighboring cultures, "Israel" have appeared, simmingly out of nowhere. Could this be the outcome of a successful freedom of knowledge revolution, that the only relic left from is the Gezer calendar?