The oldest stone inscription of the Ten Commandments discovered so far is being auctioned this week with an opening bid of $250,000 and the requirement that the owner must put the artifact on public display, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The tablet was discovered near Israel's Yavneh during excavations for a railroad station in 1913 and is believed to be the only intact tablet version of the commandments.
The marble tablet is inscribed with Samaritan, an early form of Hebrew script, and appears to be adorned with a Samaritan synagogue or home in the ancient town of Jabneel, according to David Michaels, director of ancient coins for Heritage Auctions.
The inscription lists nine of the 10 generally accepted commandments, plus a tenth that commands believers to worship on Mount Gerizim near present-day Nablus.
Scholars believe the commandment forbidding taking the name of God in vain was left out on purpose to keep the number of commandments at 10.
According to Michaels, the tablet's home was destroyed by the Romans in the fifth or sixth century CE or by Crusaders in the 11th century.
"The workmen who found it did not recognize its importance and either sold or gave it to a local Arab man, who set the stone into the threshold of a room leading to his inner courtyard, with the inscription facing up," Michaels told CNN.
In 1943, three decades later, the man's son sold the tablet to a municipal archeologist named Y. Kaplan, according to the report.
"He immediately recognized its importance as an extremely rare 'Samaritan Decalogue,' one of five such known stone inscriptions that date to the late Roman-Byzantine era (300-640 CE) or just after the Muslim invasion of the seventh century CE," Michaels said.