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Beverly Hills, CA - Ancient Ten Commandments Tablet Sold At Auction For $850,000

Published on: November 17, 2016 12:02 PM
By: AP/Reuters
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This photo provided by Heritage Auctions, HA.com shows the world’s earliest-known stone inscription of the Ten Commandments – a two-foot square slab of white marble, weighing about 115 pounds and inscribed in an early Hebrew script called Samaritan, that sold for $850,000 Wednesday evening, Nov. 16, 2016, at a public auction of ancient Biblical archaeology artifacts held by Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Matt Roppolo/Heritage Auctions, HA.com via AP)This photo provided by Heritage Auctions, HA.com shows the world’s earliest-known stone inscription of the Ten Commandments – a two-foot square slab of white marble, weighing about 115 pounds and inscribed in an early Hebrew script called Samaritan, that sold for $850,000 Wednesday evening, Nov. 16, 2016, at a public auction of ancient Biblical archaeology artifacts held by Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Matt Roppolo/Heritage Auctions, HA.com via AP)

Beverly Hills, CA - The world’s earliest-known complete stone inscription of the Ten Commandments, described as a “national treasure” of Israel, sold at auction in Beverly Hills for $850,000.

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The tablet was put up for sale by Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, founder of the Living Torah Museum, in Brooklyn, New York, with the stipulation that the buyer must put it on public display, the auction house said.

Heritage Auctions said the two-foot square marble slab sold Wednesday night at a public auction of ancient Biblical archaeology artifacts.

The tablet weighs about 115 pounds and is inscribed in an early Hebrew script called Samaritan.

It likely adorned the entrance of a synagogue that was destroyed by the Romans between A.D. 400 and 600, or by the Crusaders in the 11th century, said David Michaels, Heritage Auctions director of ancient coins and antiquities.

The auction house said the Israeli Antiquities Authorities approved export of the piece to the United States in 2005. The only condition was that it must be displayed in a public museum.

“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.”

The tablet lists nine of the 10 commonly known commandments, leaving out “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (King James translation), and adding one often employed by the Samaritan sect, encouraging worshippers to “raise up a temple” on Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain of the Samaritans, according to Heritage Auctions.

The tablet was one of a number of Biblical artifacts owned by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York, that were up for auction.

The auction opened with a $300,000 bid on the piece. The winning bidder does not wish to be identified.

It was discovered in 1913 during an excavation for a railroad line in Israel, said Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, founder of the Living Torah Museum, in Brooklyn, New York, which obtained the tablet in 2005.

An Arab man, possibly a construction worker, acquired it and set it in his courtyard, where it remained for three decades, Deutsch said.

The museum, which contains a large collection of artifacts of Jewish life and history dating back to antiquity, is shifting toward a more hands-on focus to attract younger visitors and decided it was time to sell the artifact.

The tablet was acquired in 1943 by an archeologist, who owned it until his death in 2000. Deutsch was able to acquire the tablet for a temporary period through an agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority and then purchased it outright after a legal settlement, Heritage officials said.



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