From food getting stuck, to the awkward moment your shaver runs out of battery midway, there’s a downside to growing a beard.
But if that makes you feel better, then the facial hair-related problems of the past year sound much worse.
In a remarkable discovery, researchers have translated the first sentence ever written in the ancient language of the Canaanites, people in a land believed to include parts of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. .
Dating back to about 1700 BC, the inscription on a small ivory comb reads: “May this ivory kill lice on hair and beard!”
The team that found it at Tel Lachish in Israel says it’s a spell to get rid of beard lice.
“This is the first verse ever found in Canaanite in Israel,” said Professor Yosef Garfinkel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He added: “This is a turning point in the history of the human ability to write.
Evidence of how the alphabet was used 3,700 years ago
Professor Garfinkel and his team, which includes colleagues from Southern Adventist University in the US, say the comb is derived from ivory.
While it was excavated back in 2017, the engraving was so shallow that it was only noticed during post-processing earlier this year and deciphered by Semitic historian Dr Daniel Vaistub.
The inscription is made up of 17 Canaanite letters and seven letters.
“There were Canaanites in Ugarit in Syria, but they wrote in a different script, not the alphabet used to this day,” explains Professor Garfinkel.
“The Canaanite cities are mentioned in Egyptian documents, the Amarna letters are written in Akkadian and in the Hebrew Bible.
“The inscription on the comb is direct evidence of the use of the alphabet in everyday activities about 3,700 years ago.”
Anything familiar about the comb itself?
Comb only 3.5cm x 2.5cm, with teeth on both sides.
While the tooth itself is broken, their root remains visible and the central part is heavily worn away – possibly due to the pressure of the fingers holding it in during the treatment.
Given its material, it could have been an imported luxury item – possibly from Egypt.
As parents with young children may have noticed, its design is no different from the fine toothed combs used today to treat lice and nits.
Using a microscope, the researchers took high-resolution pictures of the comb and actually found some lice remains.
Given the comb’s putative origin, they say, it’s an indication that lice are even more of a problem in the upper classes of society.
Lachish was a major Canaanite city-state, and the second most important city in Judah, the biblical kingdom.
To date, 10 Canaanite inscriptions have been found in Lachish, more than any other site in Israel – but so far there has never been a full sentence.