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Press Release - November 17, 2016
World’s Earliest 10 Commandments Tablet Sold for $850,000 by Heritage AuctionsAncient inscribed stone tablet dates to 4th century AD; a highlight of the Properties of the Living Torah Museum Auction in Beverly Hills
The tablet likely adorned the entrance of a synagogue destroyed by the Romans between A.D. 400 and 600, or by the Crusaders in the 11th century, Heritage Auctions Director of Ancient Coins & Antiquities David Michaels said. The auction opened with a $300,000 bid, but a war between two phone bidders pushed the auction price to $850,000.
The winning bidder does not wish to be identified at this time.
Although officially deemed a "National Treasure" of Israel, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) approved export of the piece the United States in 2005 on the condition that it be displayed in a public museum, a condition that still remains in effect," Michaels said.
"The sale of this tablet does not mean it will be hidden away from the public," Michaels said. "The new owner is under obligation to display the tablet for the benefit of the public."
After an introductory dedication and invocation, the tablet lists nine of the 10 commonly known Biblical Commandments from the Book of Exodus, omitting "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (King James translation), and adding one commonly employed by the Samaritan sect exhorting worshippers to "raise up a temple" on Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain of the Samaritans, located near the West Bank city of Nablus.
Based on the letter forms chiseled into the tablet, scholars suspect the stone was probably carved in the late Roman or Byzantine era, circa A.D. 300-500, to adorn the entrance or worship space of a synagogue in or around the modern city of Yavneh, in what now is western Israel. It is unclear when the synagogue was destroyed but scholars suspect it could have occurred when the Samaritan sect was heavily suppressed by the Romans in the mid-400s, by the Byzantines in the 500s, or by the Muslims or Crusaders up to the 12th century.
The tablet was the centerpiece of an offering of Biblical historic artifacts, all thoroughly researched and authenticated, and owned by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York. Additional highlights included a circa 70-200 Common Era nine-spouted Hanukkah lamp, which sold for $17,500.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world's third largest, with annual sales of more than 800 million, and 1,000,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.
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Eric Bradley, Public Relations Director
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