Known to the ancient Phoenicians as Gebal, this seaport North of Beirut was first identified and excavated in 1860. It was occupied almost continuously from 5000 B.C. to the Crusades period. The Greeks who traded in this city knew it as Byblos (“book”) because it was the center for papyrus manufacture, and this name is the origin of our word “Bible.” In Old Testament times it was an important locale for the Canaanite religion and was famous for its artisans and craftsmen, many of whom were hired by Solomon to construct the temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 5:18). Because Gebal was a port, it employed carpenters and shipbuilders who constructed trading vessels for the merchants of Tyre (Ezek. 27:9).
In about 1115 B.C. Gebal was visited by an Egyptian ambassador named Wen-Amun, who was sent to many places by Rameses XII to purchase cedar for a ceremonial boat dedicated to an Egyptian god. The trading relations that Gebal had were typical of Palestinian maritime life in the time of Solomon, and the account of Wen-Amun’s travels and adventures confirms this.
An interesting discovery made in 1925 by Montet was that of the sarcophagus of Ahiram, king of Gebal. Dated about 1250 B.C., this stone coffin was made by the dead king’s son. On it the king was depicted sitting on a throne of sphinx-like design in front of a table spread with sacrificial offerings. The sarcophagus lid carried an engraved inscription which identified the ruler, his son, and the nature of the contents. This inscription is very important because it is one of the earliest examples of the ancient Phoenician script. Other inscriptions, tombs, coins, and buildings have been uncovered at the Byblos site, some artifacts going back to nearly 3000 B.C.
A new hieroglyphic script was discovered in 1930 at Gebal, written on copper as well as stone. The inscriptions were done later than 2200 B.C. but to date they have not been deciphered. Their discovery demonstrated how early the people of Palestine set down words in written form.