CANAANITE LIFE: HOUSES, FOOD, TOOLS, MUSIC AND GAMES

CANAANITE LIFE


Anthropoid coffin from Deir al-Balah

According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: Education, work and leisure were concentrated in and around the home. According to the Bible, the ideal family in Ancient Israel was large and patriarchal. The extended family or beit 'av (father's house) consisted of three generations (father, married sons, grandchildren) living together. Excavated houses from the Bronze and Iron Age are small and suggest an average family size of four to eight people. Although extended families might have occupied more than one house, high mortality rates probably kept most families from achieving the biblical ideal. [Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |~|]

“The societies of the Bronze and Iron Age southern Levant were patriarchal and gender was an important factor in shaping the opportunities and social roles of the individual. In art and literature, women were portrayed as mothers and objects of desire, but also as warriors and priestesses. Interpreting evidence for the role of women in ancient society is difficult, since the evidence itself may be a product of the interests and priorities of men.

“In Canaan and Ancient Israel, people depended on storing sufficient food, fodder and seed to sustain them from one harvest to the next, and a little beyond. In the Bronze and Iron Age, people in the southern Levant never developed the kind of centralized storage and redistribution systems common in Egypt and Mesopotamia. |~|

“Families dedicated a good amount of time and floor space to storage. Ceramic storage jars or clay bins were used to store foodstuffs or liquids by sealing them to trap in carbon dioxide and thus prevent spoilage. Under the dry environment conditions of the southern Levant, it was necessary to store more than was needed between harvests. With poor harvests coming as frequently as one year in every four, farmers always had to keep a reserve of seed stock on hand. |~|

“Fermentation, oil extraction and drying were all ways of converting food into more stable, and hence, storable products. Feeding harvested crops to livestock was a means of "storage on the hoof" -- the animals converted the fodder into meat or milk. Men and women typically worked from sunrise to sundown, perhaps taking a siesta in the hottest part of the afternoon. Leisure time would be spent in storytelling, music and dance. Games involving moving pieces across a board according to the roll of dice were popular.|~|

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Food in Canaan and Ancient Israel


grinding stone from Tel Megiddo

According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: “In the Bronze and Iron Age, bread was the staple food. Since it was prepared almost every day, bread-making was one of the main activities of a household. People in Canaan and Ancient Israel consumed between 330 - 440 lbs. of wheat and barley per year. An individual typically consumed 50 - 70 percent of calories from these cereals -- mostly eaten in the form of bread. [Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |~|]

“The grinding of grain was done by hand, using a quern: this consisted of a fixed lower stone, called a metate, and a moveable upper stone or mano. The quern was made of basalt, a course volcanic stone, which was preferred for the process because of its rough surface and relatively light weight. The grain was ground on the course surface to break down the soft center of the kernel into flour. It was a very laborious process and had the disadvantage of producing basalt grit which got into the bread and gradually wore down the teeth. |~|

“Bread was baked in small domed clay ovens, or tabun. Archaeologists have excavated ancient ovens which were usually made by encircling clay coils or from re-used pottery jars. The oven was heated on the interior using dung for fuel; flat breads were baked against the interior side walls. Grain could also be eaten as a porridge or steeped in water and fermented to make beer. The fermented liquid was poured through ceramic strainers to separate the beer from the barley sediment.

“Meat was a luxury which did not normally form part of the diet because animals could be more profitably be used to produce other commodities. Meat from goats, sheep and cattle was normally eaten at sacrificial feasts and as part of the entertainment of a special guest. Meat was also obtained from birds. The chicken may not have been introduced into the southern Levant until the later Iron Age. Seafood was rare for the Israelites as they lacked access to the Mediterranean for part of their history. A limited variety of fruits and vegetables was also eaten including dates, pomegranates, figs, grapes, olives, legumes, onions, leeks, beans and lentils. Seasonings included salt, garlic, aniseed, coriander, cumin, dill, thyme, mint, nuts and honey.” |~|

Winery Discovered in Canaanite Palace

In May 2016, Science Daily and the University of Haifa reported: “For the first time in excavations of ancient Near Eastern sites, a winery has been discovered within a Canaanite palace. The winery produced high-quality wine that helped the Canaanite ruling family to impress their visitors — heads of important families, out-of-town guests, and envoys from neighboring states. “All the residents of the Canaanite city could produce simple wine from their own vineyards. But just before it was served, the wine we found was enriched with oil from the cedars of Lebanon, tree resin from Western Anatolia, and other flavorings, such as resin from the terebinth tree and honey. That kind of wine could only be found in a palace,” says Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau of the Maritime Civilizations Department at the University of Haifa, one of the directors of the excavation. The full findings of the 2015 excavation season was presented at the conference “Excavations and Studies in Northern Israel,” which took place at the University of Haifa, and in May 16 at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. [Sources: Science Daily, University of Haifa, May 2, 2016 /=/]


ancient Palestine wine press

“The excavations at the Canaanite palace at tel Kabri, which was established around 3,850 years ago during the Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.) (around 1950-1550 ), are continuing to yield surprises and to provide evidence of a connection between wine, banquets, and power in the Canaanite cities. Two years ago, around 40 almost-complete large jars were found in one of the rooms, and chemical analysis proved that they were filled with wine with special flavorings, such as terebinth resin, cedar oil, honey, and other plant extracts. “This was already a huge quantity of jars to find in a palace from the Bronze Age, and we were really surprised to find such a treasure,” says Prof. Yasur-Landau, who is directing the excavation together with Prof. Eric Cline of George Washington University, and Prof. Andrew Koh of Brandeis University. /=/

“In this early excavation the researchers already found openings leading into additional rooms. They devoted 2014 to analyzing the findings from the excavation, particularly the chemical analysis of the wine residues. During the 2015 excavation season, conducted in the summer, the researchers returned to the ancient rooms, not knowing what awaited them. The northern opening led to a passage to another building. Both sides of the passage were lined with “closets” containing additional jars. The southern opening led to a room that was also full of jars buried under the collapsed walls and roof. This was clearly an additional storeroom. “We would have happily called it a day with this discovery, but then we found that this storeroom also had an opening at its southern end leading to a third room that was also full of shattered jars. And then we found a fourth storeroom” relates Prof. Yasur-Landau. /=/

“But the surprises kept on coming. As in the previous seasons, each of the new jars was sampled in order to examine its contents. The initial results showed that while all the jars in the first storeroom were filled with wine, in the other storerooms some of the jars contained wine, others appear to have been rinsed clean, while others still contained only resin, without wine. “It seems that some of the new storerooms were used for mixing wines with various flavorings and for storing empty jars for filling with the mixed wine. We are starting to think that the palace did not just have storerooms for finished produce, but also had a winery where wine was prepared for consumption.” Prof. Yasur-Landau added that this is the first time that a winery has been found in a palace from the Middle Bronze Age. /=/

“He adds that the new findings, together with the evidence from previous years of select parts of sheep and goats, have strengthened our understanding of the way rulers used splendid banquets to strengthen their control. “In this period it was not normal practice to mix wine beforehand. Accordingly, in order to provide guests with high-quality wines, the palace itself must have had a winery where they made prestigious wine and served it immediately to guests. These splendid banquets, which in addition to wine also included choice joints of sheep and goat, were the way rulers stayed in touch with their ‘electorate’ at the time — not only the heads of important extended families, but also guests from other cities and foreign envoys.” On the basis of ancient Ugaritic documents, the value of the wine in the storeroom can be estimated at a minimum of 1,900 silver shekels — an enormous sum that would have been sufficient, for example, to purchase three merchant ships. By way of comparison, an ordinary laborer in the same period would have to work for 150 years to earn this sum.” /=/

Animals in Canaan and Ancient Israel

According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: “People in the Bronze and Iron Age lived in close contact with domestic animals. Animals provided food, and their care and feeding was an investment and a hedge against hard times. Sheep and goats were the principal herd animals: they are mobile, resilient in drought and provide meat, milk, wool, manure, and leather. Although cattle provide most of these same products and also can be used for plowing, they are not as well adapted to dry conditions and broken terrain. [Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |~|]

“Iron Age houses usually included space for stabling animals. Small flocks were housed in and around the village, but large flocks had to travel considerable distances to find sufficient water and pasture. For at least part of each year, full-time shepherds were nomadic... Pigs were rare in the Iron Age. Beginning at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the raising of pigs declined steadily. Pigs were costly to feed and do not provide milk, hair or wool. The avoidance of pork probably was already a widespread cultural pattern before the dietary prohibition of Leviticus 11:7 in the Old Testament. In the Hellenistic period (333 - 63 BCE), when pork consumption once again became popular, this long-standing regional pattern also became a means of marking an ethnic division between Jews and Greeks.” |~|


Canaanites in the Beni Hassan tombs


John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Although there is a wide variety of animal bones in archaeological contexts, the vast majority are from the primary herd animals, sheep and goats. Cattle, which require more pasture land and demand abundant water, were a secondary herd animal throughout the period, and their bones, though common, occur less frequently. One finds a wide variety of remains from other animals in ancient sites: pigs, horses, donkeys, oxen, camels, dogs, fallow deer, hippopotami, birds, fish, etc. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Animal bones are found in domestic and other contexts. Swine astragali, surprisingly, appear in tombs in the Iron Age. Right Forelegs or astragali of immature goats and sheep are common in pits near sites interpreted as bamot or temples. At the end of Middle Bronze, complete skeleton of donkeys appear in a few communal burials. More common in Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.) tombs, though, are joints from goats, sheep and cattle. |*|

“A detailed study of animal bones at Beersheba provided some interesting observations about exploitation of animals. Sheep/goats were by far the most common herd animal in all strata. Cattle were also well represented but at a lower percentage than sheep/goats (ratio: 3 to 1); however, if one takes into account animal size it is clear that cattle figured more promptly in the diet than sheep. Generally the bones from all three came from the right foreparts of the animal. Skulls were generally found in fragments which suggests that the brain may have been eaten. Finally, there is a steady increase in the number of remains from juvenile specimens thus suggesting a growth in food supply throughout the period. |*|

Tale of Sinuhe: Insights into Daily Life in the Middle Bronze Age

Description of Asiatic life from the Tale of Sinuhe (Middle Bronze Age, 2200 - 1570 B.C.): “He set me at the head of his children. He married me to his eldest daughter. He let me choose for myself of his country, (80) of the choicest of that which was with him on his frontier with another country. It was a good land, named Yaa. Figs were in it, and grapes. It had more wine than water. Plentiful was its honey, abundant its olives. Every (kind of) fruit was on its trees. Barley were there, and emmer. There was no limit to any (kind of) cattle. (85) Moreover, great was that which accrued to me as a result of the love of me. He made me ruler of a tribe of the choicest of his country. Bread was made for me as daily fare, wine as daily provision, cooked meat and roast fowl, beside the wild beasts of the desert, for they hunted (go) for me and laid before me, beside the catch of my (own) hounds. Many . . . were made for me, and milk in every (kind of) cooking. [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), 18-19, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

“I spent many years, and my children grew up to be strong men, each man as the restrainer of his (own) tribe. The messenger who went north or who went south to the Residence City (95) stopped over with me, (for) I used to make everybody stop over. I gave water to the thirstv. I put him who had strayed (back) on the road. I rescued him who had been robbed. When the Asiatics became so bold as to oppose the rulers of foreign countries,l3 I counseled their movements. This ruler of (100) (Re)tenu had me spend many years as commander of his army. Every foreign country against which I went forth, when I had made my attack on it, was driven away from its pasturage and its wells. I plundered its cattle, carried off its inhabitants, took away their food, and slew people in it (105) by my strong arm, by my bow, by my movements, and by my successful plans. I found favol in his heart, he loved me, he recognized my valor, and he placed me at the head of his children, when he saw how my arms fiourished.


Canaanites in the Beni Hassan tombs


“A mighty man of Retenu came, that he might challenge me (110) in my (own) camp. He was a hero without his peer, and he had repelled all of it.l7 He said that he would fight me, he intended to despoil me, and he planned to plunder my cattle, on the advice of his tribe. That prince discussed (it) with me, and I said: "I do not know him. Certainly I am no confederate of his, (115) SO that I might move freely in his encampment. Is it the case that I have (ever) opened his door or overthrown his fences? (Rather), it is hostility because he sees me carrying out thy commissions. I am reallv like a stray bull in the midst of another herd, and a bull of (these) cattle attacks him....

“During the night I strung my bow and shot my arrows, I gave free play to my dagger, and polished my weapons. When day broke, (Re)tenu was come. (I30) It had whipped up its tribes and collected the countries of a (good) half of it. It had thought (only) of this fight. Then he came to me as I was waiting, (for) I had placed myself near him. Every heart burned for me; women and men groaned. Every heart was sick for me. They said: "Is there another strong man who could fight against him?" Then (he took) his shield, his battle-axe, (I35) and his armful of javelins. Now after I had let his weapons issue forth, I made his arrows pass by me uselessly, one close to another. He charge me, and I shot him, my arrow sticking in his neck. H cried out and fell on his nose. (140) I felled him with his (own) battle-axe and raised my cry of victory over hi back, while every Asiatic roared. I gave praise to Montu, while his adherents were mourning for him. This rule Ammi- enshi took me into his embrace. Then I carried off his goods and plundered his cattle. What he had planned to do (145) to me I did to him. I took wha was in his tent and stripped his encampment. I became great thereby, I became extensive in my wealth, I became abundant in my cattle.”

Canaanite Houses and Settlements

Typical types of dwelling in the Iron Age were the "four-room" house and the "three-room" house. The latter is divided into three parts, each with a distinct function, and contains: 1) a central activity area; 2) a stable area; 3) a storage room; 4) sleeping quarters; and 5) clay roof. According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: “A doorway entered into a white-plastered area (1), which served as a space for food processing and other household tasks. In larger houses, this area may have been a courtyard surrounded by rooms and open to the sky above. A row of pillars divided this room from a cobblestone paved area (2) to the side of the house. This space was used for stabling animals and for the storage of agricultural produce. The long broad room at the back of the house (3) was used for long-term storage. Space for sleeping and entertaining guests probably was located on the second floor (4). The second floor may have been reached by a flight of stairs or wooden ladders. The walls of the houses were built of roughly-hewn blocks of stone and the roof (5) consisted of wooden beams covered with layers of branches and smoothed down clay. This style of house is extremely common throughout the Iron Age, especially in the territory of Israel and Judah. Numerous finds from along the Mediterranean coast of Israel and in the highlands of Jordan make it clear, however, that this house type also was used in Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia. [Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |~|]

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Hebrews were established in Canaan. Their status in the eyes of the Canaanites, how they organized their communities, what patterns of living they developed, and how they worshipped is not known. Some may have lived in tents (Judg. 4:17; 5:24) or caves (Judg. 6:2); others adopted the cultural patterns of settled society. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]


Bronze Age Arad House

“On the basis of archaeological study, it is surmised that three kinds of Hebrew settlements were developed.12 Villages were built on abandoned tells or in previously unoccupied areas. Where Canaanite cities had been destroyed, new dwellings were constructed amid the ruins. In some instances, by mutual agreement, Hebrews settled more or less peacefully among the Canaanites (Josh. 9:3-7). By comparison with Canaanite dwellings, Hebrew houses were poorly built. In new villages little attention was given to town planning and homes were constructed wherever the owner desired.

Defensive walls were relatively weak and crudely composed, revealing limited mastery of structural engineering principles. Hebrew pottery, in contrast to well levigated, well fired Canaanite ware, appears quite poorly made. Some Hebrews ventured into Canaanite agricultural and commercial pursuits, others continued to raise flocks and herds (I Sam. 17:15, 34; 25:2). Despite efforts of a conservative element, fiercely loyal to old tribal ways, Canaanite cultural patterns were gradually assimilated. The unsettled nature of the times is revealed by the numerous destroyed layers from the thirteenth to eleventh centuries found in some excavations.”<=>

Canaanite Settlement Patterns

In the Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.), John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “There is limited evidence of urban or village life throughout the region. Temporary structures, more like sheds than houses, have been uncovered on the sides of some tells (e.g. Jericho [Tell es-Sultan]) and other hillsides. In the Negev, village sites had circular huts with stone pillar in the center. At most sites there is no sedentary evidence of this culture except for the numerous tombs. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“There is a definite decrease in occupied settlements in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) from the previous Middle Bronze period. Surveys and excavations appear to confirm that the hill country region lacked a sedentary population except at a few major sites (e.g. Shechem or Tell Beit Mirsim). For example, Tell es-Sultan is abandoned by Late Bronze Age ; Gibeon show no sedentary occupation in the Late Bronze period though a single tomb was used in Late Bronze Age A. “Many small and minor sites in the coastal region appear also to be abandoned, and very few new sites (e.g. Tell Abu Hawam) are founded. |*|

“One of Nelson Gleuck's major contribution to the study of cultures in this region was his expeditions in the Transjordan. Gleuck determined that this region of the Near East was generally unoccupied in the Middle and Late Bronze Age. However, in the early Iron Age period numerous small settlement and significant sedentary occupation started. A similar pattern also seems to have occurred in the hill country and Galilee. Surveys show that this area lost sedentary occupation in the Late Bronze Age, but in the early Iron Age numerous small villages appear. |*|


Tel Megiddo

“The ring city is a characteristic plan of ninth-seventh century cities in Judah and Israel (Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell Beer-sheba, Tell en-Nasbeh, Beth Shemesh). A paved or cobblestone inner street runs parallel to the fortification wall with storage houses and other buildings abutting that wall. Just inside the entrance gate there appears to be a square with public buildings. Various other radial streets fan off that square or off the main ring street. Such streets are usually paved or cobblestone and are generally two to three meters wide. The origin of such a plan may indeed be found in the village design of Iron I.In the eighth century, some sites (Hazor, Megiddo Stratum III-II, Dor) show a change in city plan and building structures. The cities are laid out in a grid pattern of blocks with one to two houses per block. Such a construction is more characteristic of Mesopotamian cities.” |*|

Houses and Other Buildings in the Bronze Age

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Large houses, or palaces, followed the same Middle Bronze design of rooms built around a central courtyard (e.g. Megiddo Strata VIII-VII). Some minor changes in style do occur. For example, more rooms seem to surround the central courtyard (Taanach, Megiddo and Bethel) in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) than in the Middle Bronze period. Bethel's house has a well-constructed "French drain system" which discharges rain-water outside the city. The so-called patrician house at Tell Batash (Timnah., pp. 53-67, Fig. 4:18) appears to have two stories and a storage area on the first floor with wooden pillars and stone bases, a design that seems to foreshadow architectural design of the Iron Age. (See house structures in the Iron Age.) [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Probably the most significant palace discovered to date is at Megiddo. Located in the area near the gate, the palace has small rectangular rooms surround courtyards. Like the Ajjul palace it is equipped with in-door plumbing and staircases. The structure underwent several renovations and additions, and although massive in design for this region it is dwarfed in size and intricacy by other palaces in Syria (e.g. Ras Shamra or ancient Ugarit). |*|

“In the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) and the beginning of the Iron Age, a number of well-built square-shaped houses can be cited: Tell Sera', Tell Masos, Beth Shan, Tell Hesi, Gerar, Tell Aphek and Tell el-Farah (S). Built on a mud-brick foundation with walls also constructed of mud-brick these structures parallel house designs from Tell el-Amarna and suggest at the very least, Egyptian origin. More likely, they are remains of the Egyptian garrisons that occupied the region. The Beth Shan 1500 and 1700 houses are particularly helpful in noting Egyptian ownership since the door jambs written in hieroglyphics name the Egyptian governor of the site. |*|

Mentions of Canaanite Houses in the Bible: I Kings 22:39: Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he built, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chroniclesof the Kings of Israel? Amos 3:15: I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end," says the LORD. Amos 6:4a: Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches.

Cities and Houses in Iron Age Palestine


Abercrombie wrote: “At Bethel, Tell Deir Alla (Succoth?), Hazor, Dan and Tell Beit Mirsim (Debir ?), the Bronze Age cities were destroyed and a village culture with pillared houses and silos was constructed on the destruction layers. Numerous other unfortified villages were built on sites that were either uninhabited in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) or even in any previous archaeology period: 'Izbet Sartah, Ai, Mt. Ebal, Tirzah. Later in Iron I, the transition at Megiddo is particularly instructive as lowlands city states show a similar change from Bronze Age city to the early Iron Age village culture. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“The four-room house with rows of pillar is a defining trait of Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) and found both in the hill country and on the Philistine plain. By the late Iron Age this house design becomes almost a de facto standard in domestic architecture. Tell el-Farah (N), ancient Tirzah, provides some of the best examples in strata predating the move of the capitol from Tirzah to Samaria. Due to the thickness of the walls and sometimes the appearance of stairs, one could surmise that the houses had a secondary story at one end, or over the entire house as some suggest. The pillars in a courtyard area probably held up a shed area where cooking and other chores were performed and where animals may have been stabled. Rooms were generally elongated rectangles. Later levels of Tirzah show further developments in the pillared house. Solid walls replaced the row of pillars. Houses also are less uniform in size. Some of the smaller ones were flimsy in construction. |*|

“Strata VII-V at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh provide excellent examples of the variety of house structures in the Jordan valley. The houses of Stratum VII, the earlier stratum probably dating to the ninth century, are small rectangular structures with two or, in once case, three rooms. The houses open on a narrow street with a drainage ditch in the center. In the next level the houses are rectangular one room structures, a style more characteristics of the Transjordan. In Stratum V, the pillared house is the exclusive type of house structure. A complete block of houses, constructed of mud-brick and with earthen amd stone floors, ovens, and storage bins between pillars, could be entered from the narrow streets surrounding the block. Pritchard uncovered considerable evidence of burning with fragments of root timbers, layer of gray ash and scourched bricks and artifacts. He hypothesized that the level was destroyed at the end of the seventh century when the Assyrian kings destroyed most of the other cities in the kingdom of Israel. |*|

Buildings and Palaces in Iron Age Palestine


Kabri palace

Abercrombie wrote: “At a number of sites (Tell Abu Hawam, Beer-sheba, Hazor, Tell el-Hesi, Lachish, Tell Qasile) various building structures have been identified as warehouses. Some of these structures, long deep building adjacent to the walls (see Beer-sheba and even Tell Beig Mirsim), may have served as storage warehouses for grain and other agricultural and commercial products. Some scholars have suggested that these buildings may aid in reinterpreting the stables at Megiddo, one of the more monumental buildings from ninth century. Although an earlier debate about the Megiddo stables focused on whether to date them to the tenth or ninth centuries, recent discussions have dealt with their actual functionality given the structural problems with designating them as stables, and given the recent discoveries of warehouse structures in many of biblical "stored cities." [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Excavators have identified a number of other types of structures as evidence of industrial activities: iron smelting and processing (Arad and Ezion Geber), dye and taning (Tell Beit Mirsim), oil pressing (Ekron, Timnah), viticulture (Gibeon), weaving (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh) and pottery manufacture (Sarepta). Some of these activities appear to be local, cottage industries (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh), although others seem to be truly industrial parks (e.g. Sarepta's kilns, Gibeon's winery). |*|

“Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) palaces do not disappear early in the early Iron Age and continue to be occupied for the first half of the early Iron Age (see, Megiddo). At Beth Shan, a square house with central courtyard with rooms off the courtyard is built on an egyptian model best represented at Tell el-Amarna, the capital of Amunhotep IV. The hieroglyphic door lintels and other objects from the site suggest that at least for the first half of the early Iron Age Beth Shan remained a central administrative point for Egypt. |*|

“The Hilani house with its pillared portico, central court and subsidiary rooms some with stairways occurs at a number of sites (Megiddo 1723, 6000) and is one form of large house structure that can be cited from the so-called royal cities in Judah and Israel. Some scholars conclude that this house style may be the type of construction of Solomon's palace. Megiddo (1732), Stratum V-IV

“A different palace style found at Ramat Rahel and Samaria, the royal palace, may be an alterative plan for Solomon's palace. These royal (?) complexes are surrounded by casemate wall system. Other special features of the such sites are: ashlar construction, Proto-Aeolic capitals , banisters with palmette pillars with volute capitals. Proto-Aeolic capitals also have been uncovered at Hazor (St. VIII), Jerusalem and Megiddo. “A rather unique fortress/residence complex at Lachish has no known parallels. This large, monumental structure shows continual rebuilding through most of The Late Iron Age. |*|

Fortifications in the Canaanite Era

Abercrombie wrote: “Middle Bronze fortifications systems were reused in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) (Hazor, Shechem and Megiddo) without significant changes. New fortification systems were constructed at Ashdod, Tell Abu Hawam, Tell Beit Mirsim and Beth Shan. Some important sites (e.g. Lachish), however, show no significant fortifications and may even be unfortified. Perhaps this lack of fortifications may be a direct consequence of the way Egypt disarmed the local population. Other evidence for Egyptian control of the population can be found in the Amarna tablets (Amunhotep III and IV) and inscriptions dating to the reign of Thothmosis III. A migdol fortress may have been uncovered in Beth Shan VIII-VII. Although damaged by later Roman and Byzantine remains, the structure parallels contemporary fortresses along the "Way of Horus," the coastal road in the Sinai and at Tell Mor, Deir el-Balah. A building next to this migdol may, in fact, be a residency. It also varies from other contemporary buildings in that it lacks a courtyard. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]


Gate at Ashkelon

Gate systems follow the same general plan as those from the Middle Bronze Age. The gate systems at Megiddo, Hazor and Shechem continue to be used throughout the period and undergo little significant modifications. Parts of a three pier gate may have been construction at Beth Shan (Stratum IX). The roadway leading to the gate followed the all system. A basalt orthostat, depicting a dog attacking a lion, may be part of the decoration in the gate area. |*|

“Many of the fortification lines built in the Bronze Age continued into the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) especially at sites in the lowlands. In the Philistine plain, several cities (Ashdod and Ekron) are surrounded by newly constructed solid brick walls, however. In the hill country, which was sparsely populated in the Bronze Age, most newly established villages (Kibbutz Sasa, Ai, Raddana, Bethel, Tell Beit Mirsim, Arad, Tell Malhata, Tell Masos) were unfortified throughout Iron I. Some sites, however, do have houses built around the perimeter, thus creating a flimsy form of protection. There exist a number of forts dated to the end of Iron I. Such forts consist of casemate walls and towers located at the corners, thus extending the defensible perimeter. Probably the most famous such forts, Tell el-Ful (possibly ancient Gibeah) was excavated by W.F. Albright and was the royal residence of Saul (I Sam. 11:4; 15:34; 22:6; 23:19). |*|

Slightly later gates at Dan and Beersheba have similar designs to the so-called Solomonic gates, but also additional features. The number of chambers decreases from six to four (Beer-sheba, Dan, Dor, Megiddo, Timnah) in those dated to beginning of the next century. The entrances become more complex:large towers at the main entrance in front of the gate, a right angle bend in the road inside gate entrance itself (Tell Dan) and perhaps even an inner gate (Tel Dan and later Lachish). The gate at Dan is probably one of the most interesting complexes for further study not only for understanding the fortifications, but also other religious (masseboth) and legal (canopy bench) uses of the gate area. In gates dating more towards the end of The Late Iron Age, the number of chambers decreases to one (Lachish, Megiddo, Dor, Tell en-Nasbeh) or even none (Tell el-Farah N, Lachish St. II). Large towers may also be constructed by the gate and the access to the city becomes less direct with the roadway following the perimeter of the wall before entering the gate area (e.g. Tell en-Nasbeh). [Biblical references here 2K 7:1, Deut 21:19, 22:15; Amos 5:12, Ruth 4:1-11, 1K 22:10, Isa 29:12, Amos 5:10, Jer 38:7 2 Chr 32.6]

“By ninth-eighth centuries new fortification lines replace the casemate wall systems of the tenth century at Megiddo (?), Hazor, Tell en-Nasbeh (Mizpah). These solid walls, some with crenelations, may have appeared to offer more protection against Assyrian siege equipment. By late in the eighth century and certainly in seventh century, there is a return to the construction of casemate wall system. |*|

“Depictions of the siege of Lachish by the armies of Sennacherib (701) give a good picture of the type of mudbrick superstructure surrounding these ancient cities. Lachish Level III, which most excavators now date to the end of the eighth century, had two fortification lines, one half-way down the slope and the other at the crest of the mound. An elaborate gate system provided entrance into the city. The depictions show towers built along the wall at regular intervals. The towers have parapets with shield-like designs. Windows also are located below the towers, Fortifications at Lachish as depicted on the reliefs of Sennacherib, Depiction of Sennacherib's siege of Lachish fortification lines] |*|

“Fortresses, much like those of Iron I, seem to be constructed in this period. Probably the most interesting of these forts, Arad, shows continuous occupation and modification in design throughout The Late Iron Age. The fort's building structures, its temple and store rooms, provide further information on the material culture of the region.” |*|

Cylinder Seals in Canaanite Palestine

Abercrombie wrote: “Cylinder seals continue to be used by Bronze Age society despite the increase in the number of scarabs. In this part of the Levant, a new style of Glyptic Art, which we designate as Syrian, develops. Some the characteristic features are the mixture of Mesopotamian and Egyptian motifs, animal motifs (e.g. combat scenes), and depictions of human-like figures we interpret as deities. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]


Iron Age seals


“Cylinder seals in Syrian style continue to be found in Late Bronze (1570 - 1200 B.C.) levels, though many archaeologists feel that they may be heirlooms from the Middle Bronze II. A new type of cylinder seal, of which there are hundreds of examples, is called Mitanni style. This seal has friezes of animals and men or gods. A common motif, the sacred tree surrounded usually by antelopes or goats, occurs on these seals as well as other artifacts (e.g. pottery). The tree motif varies greatly in detail from just simple rendering of a tree or just a branch to a complete scene of tree, processional characters, animals and mythic griffins. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, designs on cylinder seals become more and more influenced by the nature of other signet items like the scarab. These later cylinder seals become more like a stamp plaque and are divided into panels with short phrases in hieroglyphic or designs in one panel and animal (s) or figure (s) in the other. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, stamp seals and plaques begin to appear. Such plaques and seals might be consider degenerative forms of cylinder seals and scarabs respectively. Seals, in particular, will become a more preferred signet item in the Iron Age.” |*|

Two motifs dominate seals of the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.). The sacred tree with animal (s) and sometimes an individual continues the motif characteristic of many Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) seals. A second motif, of a seated individual before a table and being served by an animal or human, parallels other depictions on the ivories from Megiddo and the Ahiram sarcophagus. Stamp seals first appear at the end of the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) and continue to be produce in Iron I. Some of these seals are designated scaraboids, thus, indicating perhaps their derivation from Egyptian scarabs. The iconography on these early seals include animals, plants and adult males. Few-- if any-- of these seals are inscribed. |*|

“The Late Iron Age seals continue into The Late Iron Age. A new inscribed seal, however, is the more common form of this period. Such round seals consist of two inscribed lines, the first giving the owner's name ("belonging to X"), and the second usually the person's title. Some of these inscribed seals, probably those belonging to important officials, may have an animal (e.g. lion or rooster). A few of the seals can, in fact, be identified with individuals known from biblical sources (ANEP, 277). |*|

“Seals and other inscriptional material, including dockets from Samaria or inscribed jar handles from Gibeon, are valuable particularly in discussion of the religiosity of the northern and southern kingdoms. Most of the inscribed names contain a theophoric element, baal or yahu, for instance. If we have a sufficient representation of such seals we perhaps can hypothesize the cultic allegiance of a particular site or group based upon the chosen theophoric elements. By the way, this same procedure can be applied to the biblical text as well and does provide for some fascinating observations about the rise in the cult of yahu and the decline in that of baal. |*|

Inscriptions in the Iron Age

Abercrombie wrote: “The Mesha Stone, discovered at Dhiban, is the longest known inscription from the region. This commemorative stela of King Mesha of Moabite covers the king's conquests of the lands north of Dhiban around 850 B.C.. “The Siloam tomb inscription generally is dated to the seventh century and describes the manner in which the Siloam water tunnel was cut by two different gangs of workmen. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]


Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions


“Royal stamp seals date to the eighth and/or seventh centuries. The inscribed seals occur on storage jar handles and contain the phrase (lmlk = "to/for the king") and the name of one of four cities (Hebron, Sochoh, Ziph or mmsht). The seals are of three types: winged sun-disk, a four-winged scarab (naturalistic style) and a four-winged scarab (schematic style). Until recently most archaeologists dated the inscribed seals to the reigns of seventh century monarchs, particularly Josiah. However, seals have been found in situ at Lachish III that recently has been redated to the late eighth century. The Lachish ostraca date to the last days of the Judaean kingdom, beginning sixth century, and are military dispatches the record the methodical demise of garrison in the hill country. |*|

“To date, the largest collection of Late Bronze inscriptional material uncovered in Palestine was unearthed at Beth Shan. Two almost complete stelae, one of Ramesis II and the other of Seti I, describe campaigns in the regions east of Beth Shan. Other fragmentary stelae were also found. Votive stelae dedicated to gods by their worshippers form the next largest group of inscriptions. Some of these texts do date to Iron I, yet are included here since culturally they seem to reflect to Bronze rather than Iron Age. A third group of inscriptions, inscribed door lintels, were uncovered in Strata VI, now dated to very beginning of Iron I. |*|

The 21 ostraca from Lachish — often referred to as the Letters of Lachish — belong to the period of the Neo-Babylonian siege (598/588 B.C.) of the Lachish, near Mount Hebron in present-day Israel. One of them reads: “May Yahweh cause my lord to hear this very day tidings of good! .... And let (my lord) know that we are watching for the signals of Lachish, according to all that indications which my lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah. [Source: James B. Pritchard, “Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” (ANET) pp. 321-322, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

Mesha Stela (9th Century B.C.)

The Mesha Stela (9th Century B.C.), the longest inscription from Palestine, records the victories of King Mesha of Moab (2 Kings 3:4) over the tribal inheritance of Reuben. It reads: “I (am) Mesha, son of Chemosh-[ . . . ], king of the DiboniteÑmy father (had) reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father,Ñ (who) made this high place for Chemosh in Qarhoh [ . . .] because he saved me from all the kings and caused to triumph over all my adversaries. As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years lit. days), for Chemosh was angry at his land. And his son followed him and he also said, "I will humble Moab." In my time he spoke (thus), but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever ! (Now) Omri had occupied the land Medeba, and (Israel) had dwelt there in his time, and half the time of his son (Ahab), forty years; I Chemosh dwelt there in my time. And I built Baal-meon, making a reservoir in it, and I built (10) Qaryaten. [Source: James B. Pritchard, “Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” (ANET), Princeton, 1969, pp. 320-321, web.archive.org]

“Now the men of Gad had ways dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the king Israel had built Ataroth for them; but I fought against the town and took it and slew all the people of the town as satiation (intoxication) for Chemosh Moab. And I brought back from there Arel (or Oriel), its chieftain, dragging him before Chemosh in Kerioth and I settled there men of Sharon and men of Maharith. And Chemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel!" (15) So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls and maid-servants, for I had devoted them to destruction for (the god) Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the [ . . . ] of Yahweh, dragging them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and he dwelt there while he was fighting against me, but Chemosh drove him out before me. And (20) I took from Moab two hundred men, all first class (warriors), anili them against Jahaz and took it in order to attach it (the district of) Dibon.


Mesha stele


“It was I (who) built Qarhoh, the wall of thc forests and the wall of the citadel; I also built its gates and I built its towers and I built the king's house, and I made both of its reservoirs for water inside the tower. And there was no cistern inside the town at Qarhoh, so I said to all the people, "Let each of you made a cistern for himself in his house!" And I cut beams for Qarhoh with Israelite captives. I built Aroer, and I made the highway in the Arnon (valley); I built Beth-bamoth, for it had been destroyed; I built Bezer-- for it lay in ruines-- with fifty men of Dibon, for all Dibon is (my) loyal dependency. And I reigned [in peace] over the hundred towns which I had added to the land. And I built (30) [. . .] Medeba and Beth-diblathen and Beth-baal-meon, and I set there the [. . .] of the land. And as for Hauronen, there dwelt in it [. . . And] Chemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauronen. And I went down [ and I fought against the town and took it], and Chemosh dwelt there in my time.”

Clothes, Weaving and Textiles in Canaan and Ancient Israel

According to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: “Most families in the Bronze and Iron Age wove their own cloth and made their own clothing. Like breadmaking, this was an activity that figured prominently in the daily lives of women. In antiquity, the southern Levant was famous for the weaving of luxurious patterned and colored textiles. [Source: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |~|]

“For average households, weaving was a means of producing simple everyday garments. Excavators at Tell es- Sa'idiyeh discovered burned wooden frames of looms and rows of clay loom weights in many houses. These looms were "warp-weighted": the threads on the long axis of the weave (the warp) were suspended vertically with weights. The passing of thread (the weft) horizontally in and out of the warp created the weave. |~|

“The principal fibers used for weaving were sheep wool, goat hair, and flax - - a fibrous plant used to make linen. Before it could be formed into a thread, wool had to be washed, picked clean and combed straight. Then the fibers were spun to entwine them and draw them into a long, even strand. Usually a spindle, a weighted stick suspended in the air and spun on the thigh, was used (the use of the spindle is represented through a model in the exhibit). The spun fibers were then stretched upon the loom to weave into garments. |~|

“Weaving was time consuming, but the tasks allowed for socializing, and could be taken up and put down as needed. Therefore, weaving activities could be matched to the rhythm of the house. |~|

“Archaeology has revealed some information on the manner in which Canaanites and Israelites would adorn themselves. It is apparent that both women and men wore make-up and jewelry. Kohl, a black eye-paint derived from antimony, was the most common cosmetic product. Make-up was applied by means of a stick or small spoon and stored in shallow bowls. Men and women alike would scent themselves with perfumed oils. |~|

“Clothing was a principal indication of status. In Egyptian art, Canaanite nobles are shown wearing elaborately patterned woven clothing. In the Iron Age, fringed garments were associated with special status. Elite clothing was often multi-layered and required fasteners. Toggle pins were used until the later Iron Age when fibulae, an ancient version of the safety pin, spread across the Near East. Both Canaanites and Israelites wore a frontlet, or headband, on the forehead.” |~|

Tools and Furniture in the Canaanite Era


feeding or water trough from Megiddo

Abercrombie wrote: “Plough points, lithic sickles and other agricultural tools occur in domestic areas on tells. Grinding stones and bowls are common implements uncovered mostly but not exclusively in domestic areas on tells. (Note: grinding stones did occur in the Temple VII and suggest preparation of ritual meals perhaps.) There is little variations in style of such stones from third millennium to the common era. The chalice, found in the Temple of VII, is dated to just the Late Bronze and early Iron Age. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Polished limestone or diorite dome-shaped weights occur from time to time at seventh-sixth century levels. Use of such weights is well attested in the Bible (Gen. 23:16, Deut. 25:13-15). Although most weights are unscribed, a number do have measure values written on them. Usually the stone is inscribed with the hieratic symbol for weight followed by the actual shekel weight in Phoenician script. The earlier whorls tend to be conical in shape. Towards the end of the late Iron Age period, whorls become more round. |*|

“Numerous examples of wooden boxes with bone inlay do occur at arid sites like Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) or the delta region of Egypt. In addition to the wooden boxes, wood bowls with rams and lion (?) heads on the bowl's rim are common and sometimes duplicated in clay as is the case from Gibeon (el Jib). Wooden combs, when preserved, occur in the wooden cosmetic boxes or in reed baskets. At Jericho, Kenyon uncovered fine collection of wooden tables and stools. |*|

“The stone throne from Beth Shan Temple VII, other examples from Hazor,and also the depiction of a throne on the Megiddo ivory or the Ahiram sarcophagus form a useful corpus for describing chairs of royalty and perhaps deities. The Beth Shan throne, like the one etched on one of the Megiddo ivories, has griffins, or cherubs, depicted on its sides. On the back of the throne is a tree and the depictions together reminds one of the typical motifs of animals surrounding the tree of life that occur on cylinder seals and some pottery pieces. The common phrase when referring to Yahweh as king in association with the ark, he who sits/enthrone on cherubs (add passages here), might have been visualized by the ancient Israelites in these terms. |*|

Cosmetic Palettes, Wooden Combs and Wine Sets

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Stone cosmetic palettes, flat bowls, date to the ninth-eighth centuries B.C.. Few are undecorated and most have incised lines or concentric circles on the flat lip. Occasionally evidence of blue makeup has been found in the incised decorations. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Bronze bowls, the drinking goblets for wine sets, and even wine strainers occur in some early the early Iron Age contexts as well as Late Bronze Age tombs: Tomb 7 (Beth Shan). Similar bronze vessels including wine set were recently uncovered by the British Museum's more recent excavation of Tell es-Sa'idiyeh and are further more contemporary evidence for the smelting of bronze in the Transjordan (1 Kings 7:46). |*|

“Wooden single-teeth combs with scalloped tops were uncovered in numerous tombs at Jericho (Tell es-Sultan). These combs are found among the remains of woven baskets or wooden cosmetic boxes. Occasionally combs are found in the vicinity of the skull (especially infant and child burials), thus suggesting that they were worn as decoration at least in death. |*|

Glass, Alabaster and Stone Vessels from the Canaanite Era


Scarab with a walking lion

John R.Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Egyptian and egyptianized alabaster vases become common particularly in burials. Forms such as the juglet, baggy-shaped vessels, small jars and ovoid flasks may have contained ointments used in the funerary rites or offerings for the next world. Generally one distinguishes between Egypt imports and locally-made vessels by the color and manufacture of a piece. Egyptian pieces are usually translucent in color and are carved with a drill that leaves horizontal lines on the stone. Locally-made vases are white in color and are carved by a chisel that produces vertical marks on the vase. Faience vessels first appear towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Generally two forms dominate in this period: a bottle with rosette design and a juglet with leaf design. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|

“Egyptian and egyptianize stone vessels become common in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) particularly as the local industry develops at sites like Beth Shan. Forms in the early Late Bronze reflect the imported bag-shaped vessels of the Middle Bronze period. By Late Bronze Age , the pyxis and tazza become the dominant pieces. The tazza, the most identifiable form of this period, is an exquisite vessel that is usually represented in tribute by Asiatics. Earliest examples of the tazza have two pieces, a foot and bowl. The two-ribbed tazza dates earlier than the three- ribbed example as Flinders Petrie first noted. The last forms of tazza are one piece unlike the earlier foot and bowl example.

“Other shapes from the end of the Bronze Age include bowls, imitation of imported Aegean forms, lentoid flask (LB tomb at Beth Shemesh, Fosse Temple III Lachish) or amphoriskos, and small ceramic forms including goblets (Deir el-Balah Tombs 114, 118) or juglets. Although most known examples from Palestine of the swimming girl cosmetic spoon are carved in ivory (Megiddo St. VIIA, Beth Shan Tomb 90, Tell es-Sa'idiyeh Tomb 101), a fine alabastron example was discovered in Tomb 118 at Deir el-Balah. |*|

“Imported faience vessels appear in some of the richest burials and in large palaces and temples. The delicate pieces often mimic imported Aegean vessels: the lentoid flask, pyxis, Syrian flask, amphoriskoi. Other forms, kohl pots and bowls with floral pattern and handles shaped in the head of a female, are common egyptian forms. |*|

Little change is noted between alabaster vessels of the end of the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age periods. The dominate forms, the pyxis and tazza, are characteristics shapes although other Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) shapes can also be cited including pyxis, kohl pots, and lentoid flask. In the late Iron Age the number of examples of alabaster pieces decreases. Fewer vessels appear to be imports, and most locally manufactured vessels are pyxis, goblets or one-handled cups. Early Iron Age faience vessels vary little from forms of the Late Bronze Age . By the late Iron Age the types of faience shapes decreases dramatically with the disappearance of most egyptian shapes. The most common type of faience vessel in this period in the small cup or chalice. |*|

Canaanite Incense Burners and Bronze Objects

Abercrombie wrote: “Incense burners from Beth Shan are tall, slender structures with specialized iconography: birds or people at windows, snakes crawling up the sides, and animals. Although most of the Beth Shan examples date to early Iron Age , fragments of a large incense burner from this sites as well as parallels at other sites (e.g. Hazor) show that this form appears in the thirteenth century B.C. as well. A different type of incense burner, a lamp with pedestal, is found in Bronze Age level and may be depicted in the hands of an Asiatic on the walls of the Temple of Medinet Habu. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]


Scarab with a walking lion

A fine collection of incense burners from Beth Shan are tall, slender structures with specialized iconography: birds or people at windows, snakes crawling up the sides, and animals. Most parallels date to Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) and the early Iron Age (see Tell Qasile), though a few burners with floral patterns, birds, monsters and female nudes (e.g. Tanaach) may be placed in the tenth century. |*|

“At Pella, an altar or incense burner dates to The Late Iron Age. The large rectangular clay structure had figurine heads normally where horns would be located on a horn altar. The front is decorated with nude figures at the corner. Evidence of burning on the top leads many archaeologists to identify the artifact as an incense altar. Special pedestal cups with holes just below the rim are thought to be incense burners. Such cups are common in tombs and domestic sites in the Transjordan region. |*|

“Bronze bowls, jars and sometimes even strainers appear in the richer primary burials: Deir el-Balah Tomb 114, northern cemetery at Beth Shan, Governor's tomb at Tell el-Ajjul, Tell el-Farah (S), Baq'ah Valley B3. James B. Pritchard in his study of a fine collection from Tell es-Sa'idiyeh concluded that pieces are parts of wine sets. This conclusion fits well with some other artifacts, large Canaanite storage jar used in viticulture, as well as references to Canaanite burial offerings of wine and bread. Bronze mirrors are occasionally found in some of the richest tombs: Deir el-Balah Tombs 114, 118, Tell el-Ajjul, Beth Shan Tomb 90?, Tell es-Sa'idiyeh ??. A exquisite bronze mirror with a bronze handle in the scpae of a woman comes from Acco. The considerable presence of bronze objects at Beth Shan, Tell es- Sa'idiyeh (possibly ancient Zarethan) and also the nearby site of Deir Alla (ancient Succoth) may be referenced in 1 Kings 7:46, a passage that mentions the smelting of bronze vessels in this region. |*|

Canaanite Pottery from the Bronze Age

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: Early Middle Bronze Age pottery continues the flat-base tradition of the Early Bronze Age. Some vessels, particularly north of Shechem, have the wavy ledge handles characteristic of the Early Bronze (example of Early Bronze Jar with handle). Four-spouted lamps with round or flat bases are perhaps the most identifiable form. The single-spouted lamp, the characteristic form of the Bronze Age onward, appears at the end of the early Middle Bronze Age and continues into the Roman period changing and improving over the centuries in logical and functional ways. Characteristic pieces include teapots, goblets and small amphoriskoi. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Little treatment (that is, slips, etched designs or paint) is applied to most vessels. On an occasional vessel there may occur horizontal bands of incision or single or double line of punches just below the base of the rim. A few vessels may have one to two knobs applied to the shoulder. In the northern group, vessels may have incised designs as well as raised rope- like patterns around the shoulders. A few vessels are coated with a dull, unburnished red slip. |*|


Late Bronze period pottery

“There is regional variation in pottery style. A cup-like vessel, commonly called a toothbrush holder, is a common form among the southern group (Gibeon [el Jib]). Large globular vessels with wavy handles are identifiable forms of the northern group (Beth Shan). The northern group also seems to have a wider variety of ceramic forms than tombs belonging to the southern group (Gibeon [El Jib]). |*|

Interesting Middle Bronze Age pieces include the “Four-spouted lamp (62-30-341, Gibeon [el Jib]); Jar with loop handles (34-20-635, Beth Shan); spouted Jug (34-20-365, Beth Shan); Round, globular Jar (Gibeon [el Jib]); the "British toothbrush holder" [sic] (62-30-263, Gibeon [el Jib] Tomb 57); and Round, globular Jar with vestigal handles (Gibeon [el Jib]). The first four pieces are on display at the University Pennsylvania Museum).

“Painted pottery and imports vessels are the characteristics of the Late Bronze ceramic repertoire. Painted pottery first appears at the very end of the late Middle Bronze Age (Bichrome ware) and continues to be the preferred treatment on vessels throughout the period. In fact, the amount of applied paint seems to increase as one moves from the beginning the early Late Bronze to the end of Late Bronze Age . The use of applied paint to decorate vessels decreases by the latter half of Iron I. |*|

“Middle Bronze forms continue into the Late Bronze Age, but do change in shape slowly. The heavy carination on bowls and chalices changes in favor of softer, rounder lines. Other characteristic shapes (e.g. barrel juglets) disappear by Late Bronze Age . New forms enter the repertoire, in particular imitations of imported vessels. Imports from Syria and the Aegean world are together a definable trait of the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) ceramics. Cypriote bilbils and Syrian flasks become common by the end of the early Late Bronze and are imitated by Late Bronze Age . Mycenean imports (pyxides, stirrup jars and amphoriskoi) become common place by the late Late Bronze Age and are imitated by local potters from that point on. The presence of such imports, along with other evidence (e.g. Canaanite storage jar and several shipwrecks off the southern coast of Turkey), indicate evidence of trade with the greater Aegean world. It appears that commodities such as scented and blended wines and various grades of oils were exported from the Levant. The nature of imported goods in Aegean vessels is still open to some discussion, and some scholars have speculated that diluted opium was imported particularly in bibils. In addition to locally made vessels and Aegean imports, one finds Egyptian forms especially at the very end of the Bronze Age. |*|

Interesting pieces from the Late Bronze Age include Open-spouted lamp (Beth Shan Tomb 42); Small Barrel Juglets (Beth Shan Tomb 42); Shoulder-handle Jugs (Beth Shan Tomb 42); Bilbil, BR I (Gibeon Tomb 10); Syrian Flask (Upper Egyptian Gallery, Univ. of Penn. Museum; Degenerated carinated Bowl (Gibeon Tomb 10); Decorated round bowl (Gibeon Tomb 10); Single handled Jug (Gibeon Tomb 10); Imitation of Bilbil (Gibeon Tomb 10); Small pilgrim flask (Beth Shan Tomb 241); Stirrup Jar (Beth Shan Tomb 90); Lentoid Flask (Beth Shan Tomb 90); and “Unusual Funerary "Beer" Jar with hole at base (Tell es- Sa'idiyeh Tomb 104).

Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) Pottery in Canaan and Ancient Israel

Abercrombie wrote: In the early Iron Age “There is little change in the shapes and style of pottery from Late Bronze Age . An excessive use of paint on the shoulder and upper half of vessels is found on early the early Iron Age vessels, but by late the early Iron Age it begins to disappear. Shapes of Bronze Age vessels continue into the Iron I, yet gradually the pots become less slender and more globular in shape in The Late Iron Age. Most characteristic forms, such as the dipper juglet, jars and storage vessels, continue throughout the Iron Age; imports (pyxis or pilgrim flask), however, begin to disappear or decrease in number by The Late Iron Age. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

Interesting pieces include: “Single-handled jug with painted decoration (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Small, single-handled juglet with handle in the middle of the neck and pyxis (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Pyxis with line design (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Pyxis with line design (Gibeon Tomb 3); Hand-burnished? bowl (Gibeon Tomb 3); Single spouted lamp (Gibeon Tomb 3) |*|

“The appearance of Philistine style pottery (Mycenean IIIC1b) assists in dating late twelfth and eleventh century material. The decorative style with its swirls, birds, metopes and checkerboard patterns reflects Aegean pottery traditions and is intrusive into this area of the Levant. Some pottery forms (e.g. bell-shaped kraters and horn-shaped pyxis) may also be considered intrusive, although the vast majority of forms with such decor are part of the local potter's tradition by this time. |*|

Interesting pieces from this period include:“Small bell-shaped bowl with spiral designs, L-20-124 on display (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Large bell-shaped krater with spiral design, 33-4-103 on display (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Fragment of large bell-shaped krater with spiral design (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Philistine Pottery, on display (Beth Shemesh Stratum III) Beer Jar with spiral designs, metopes and vertical lines, 33-5-46 on display (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Horn-shaped (?) pyxis with red line design (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Elongated pyxis with no decoration (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); “Sherd with circular spiral and line design (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Sherd with bird and checkerboard pattern, L-20-110 on display (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Sherd with bird and line design (Beth Shemesh Stratum III); Sherd with maltese cross (Beth Shemesh Stratum III).


“The Late Iron Age:By The Late Iron Age, painted treatment on most vessels has been replaced first by hand-burnishing and later by wheel-burnishing. Small black juglets are particularly good examples for the type of treatment on pottery forms. The earliest examples from the twelfth century receive little to no treatment and are crude looking pieces with a handle in the middle of the neck. By early The Late Iron Age, the juglet begins to be burnished slightly, but lacks the luster of the later small palm-sized, black juglets of The Late Iron Age. The handles also move further up the neck towards the rim by late The Late Iron Age. |*|

“The delicate lines and shapes of the Late Bronze and the late Iron Age give way to a more globular and heavy look characteristic of late the late Iron Age pottery. In short, if it is fat and globular with wheel burnishing, it probably dates more towards the end of the late Iron Age than the beginning. |*|

Interesting pieces from this period include:“Round, deep bowl with burnishing (Sa'idiyeh V) Samaria bowl with thick walls and wheel burnishing of deep red slip (Beth Shan IV); “Black-on-Red juglet (Beth Shan); Phoenician Red-slip juglet (Beth Shan); Black juglet (Sa'idiyeh V); Dipper Juglets (Beth Shan and Sa'idiyeh V; Cooking Pot (Beth Shemesh Stratum II); Single-spouted lamp (Sa'idiyeh V).

Collection of Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery from Canaan and ancient Israel can be found at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, Beth Shemesh and the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Musical Instruments and Games from Canaan and Ancient Israel

Abercrombie wrote: A few objects from the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) “are identified as musical instruments: bronze cymbals, jug-shaped clay rattles, ivory castenets. Small single-handled clay rattles first appear in the Late Bronze Age , probably just thirteenth century. The rattles are much smaller than later the late Iron Age rattles. An ivory boomerang or perhaps castanet was uncovered at Beth Shan. Egyptian depictions show two dancers holding similar objects to the Beth Shan example and striking them together. Professional Egyptian musicians in Djahi are, of course, known: see, the Tale of Wenamun and inscriptions on three ivory pieces form Megiddo that mention a female (?) singer, one Kerker who is associated with the Temple of Ptah at Ashkelon. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“ Heavy clay rattles occur in some the late Iron Age contexts. Due to their large size, it is doubtful that these hour-glass shaped instruments could function as infant rattles. They probably were used in musical processions (2 Samuel 6:5). As for other musical instruments, most have not survived except in depiction. |*|

“Most examples of game boards and gaming pieces in the the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum's collection date to Late Bronze and Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) and consist of 58 holes drilled into a fiddle-shaped ivory piece. Two 20 square game boards were uncovered at Beth Shemesh [Ain Shems], one in Stratum V and the other in Stratum V-IV. The best parallel for such game boards in this region comes from Albright's excavation at Tell Beit Mirsim (TBM II, No. 55). |*|

“Several examples of 58 hole game board, identified as Egyptian game Hare and Hounds, as well as faience gaming pieces occur in stratigraphic and tomb contexts. A set of dice was discovered in Beth Shan Tomb 42. |*|

Weapons in Canaan and Ancient Israel

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Copper and not bronze weapons occur in a few Middle Bronze Age (2200 - 1570 B.C.) tombs. The most common form, the curled-tangled javelin point, probably attached to a wooden pole by bending the curled tail into a wooden slot on the pole. Other types of weapons, such as a riveted dagger with a slight mid-rib for added strength and the crescentic axehead, are rare. Such types of weapons do not continue into the late Middle Bronze. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“Bronze replaces copper beginning in late Middle Bronze IIA. The "duck-bill" axehead with two elliptical holes is an identifiable form of Middle Bronze IIA (see excellent example from Tel Dan) and may have its origin in earlier forms of the early Middle Bronze Age and even Early Bronze Age axes (crescentic axes). The narrow chisel-shaped axehead occurs in Middle Bronze IIB-C contexts. Spear points with long or short sockets replace the curled-tang spearpoint of Middle Bronze I. In the late Middle Bronze Age swords are broad with added midribs to increase durability of the form. Handles are made of wood and limestone pommels form the top part of the dagger. Shorter swords, or daggers, seem to become more common in the latter half of Middle Bronze II. All of these technological changes seem driven by the desire to produce weapons with better piercing power. |*|


Bronze Age spearheads

Interesting pieces include a Curled tang javelin point (Beth Shan); Riveted dagger blade with mid-rib (El Jib) [Maxwell-Hyslop Type 19]; Corpus of Middle Bronze weapons from Gibeon (el Jib) and Beth Shan; Fenestrated Duckbill axehead (Beth Shan Tomb 92) [Maxwell-Hyslop Type Smithsonian magazine]; MB IIB-C: Chisel-shaped axehead (Gibeon [El Jib]); MB II: Daggers (Gibeon [El Jib] Tomb 15); Corpus of Middle Bronze weapons from Gibeon (el Jib) and Beth Shan; Sword; Axehead, Maxwell-Hyslop Type II (Beth Shan IX- VI); Minature knife with etched design (Beth Shan Tomb 90); Chariot Yoke bosses and terminals (Beth Shan VIII- VII) |*|

“The types of weapons used in the Middle Bronze period continue into the Late Bronze. A major innovation in the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) is that the entire blade and handle are cast together. Ivory or bone inlays are inset into the handle. Other unusual knives can be cited exclusively from the Late Bronze Age. A bronze knife with handle ending in a cloven hoof occur both to Egypt and Palestine (Tell Jemmeh St. J, Lachish Tomb 216, Tell Abu Hawam St. V, Megiddo St. VIII, VIIB). A bronze knife with a cut-out, again probably Egyptian in origin and common in burials of women in ancient Egypt, occur at a few sites (Deir el-Balah Tombs 114 and 118, Tell Jemmeh and Lachish). |*|

“Two major types of arrowheads occur in this period: long, slender arrowheads (most of the Late Bronze Age) and small blunt ones (generally thirteenth century). Arrowheads with a pronounced midrib or with a swelling at the base may date to the end of the thirteenth century. Although one cannot be fully certain that the following objects are not knobs for lids or daggers (see Middle Bronze weapons) or furniture, the design and style of these knobs are almost identical to connectors on chariot fittings from the Tomb of Tutankhamun and as depicted on New Kingdom reliefs. A sizable collection of such knobs occur in Beth Shan Strata X through VII. |*|

“Most weapon styles continue into the early Iron Age without any significant change. The weapons also continue to be made of bronze, though iron weapons (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh 113) begin to appear. Several the early Iron Age knives have bone handles with pommel end (Tel Qasile St. XII, Beth Shan St. V). The blade is fasten into a slot in the handle. |*|

Law and Lawlessness in Judges

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The lawlessness of the period (reflected in the intertribal hostility, justice by the imposition of the will of the stronger upon the weaker, and the continuing destruction and occupancy of Canaanite cities) is succinctly summarized by an editor: "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“A second story involving a Levite (Judges 19-21) records the homosexuality of the men of Gibeah and the brutal sexual abuse and murder of the Levite's concubine. The seizure of maidens during the vintage festival, a stratagem by which the Hebrews avoided the specifications of a hastily made vow, may reflect an annual ritual, which is here given an historical setting.<=>

“The period of the judges was a time of social, political and moral unrest. Law, which can only have significance if means of enforcement are available, appears to have been pretty much a hit-and-miss matter. The bonds uniting the Hebrew tribes are not clearly revealed: some situations evoked a co-operative spirit; others met with indifference or intertribal hostility. The newly won land was not held without difficulty: from without, Moabites and Ammonites pressed in; within the land were Canaanite citadels that had not been conquered; from the seacoast, the Philistines exerted expansive pressures eastward and northward. The socio-political structure of Hebrew society as reflected in the book of Judges simply could not cope with the situation. Something or someone had to unify the tribes, control the enemy, establish law and develop the nation. It was time for a king.” <=>

Water Systems in Canaan and Ancient Israel


Tel Megiddo water system excavations

References to Canaanite water systems in the Bible: II Kings 20:20: The rest of the deeds of Hezeki'ah, and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 2 Chronicles 32:30: It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the Citadel of David.

Abercrombie wrote: “The Late Iron Age Water systems were constructed to provide access to underground springs, especially during times of siege. Hidden staircases (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh) leading down the outside of the tell to underground water occur at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. Such systems, although providing access to the water, may have proved to be vulnerable to enemies surrounding the city. Another early water system at Gibeon was a large circular shaft inside the city walls. Stairs along the perimeter of the pit led down to the base and underground water. This water system seems to have been used for most of the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) and was filled in some time in the late seventh and sixth centuries. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

“The hidden staircase down the slope of the tell continued to be used into earliest parts of the late Iron Age (Megiddo). In the ninth century, more developed water tunnels appeared at Megiddo, Hazor, Beer- sheba, Gibeon and Gezer. A winding staircase is cut down inside the site to just above the water level. From there a tunnel would lead down to the underground spring outside the city's walls. Inhabitants would walk down the stairs and through the tunnel to the water supply. By the eighth century, the underground water tunnel was modified so that the water flowed from the outside spring into the city itself. The water tunnel in Jerusalem, dated to the time of Hezekiah, is a good example of this technological advancement. |*|

Siloam Tunnel (7th Century B.C.)

Siloam Tunnel (also known as Hekezekia's Tunnel) connects Gihon Spring with Pool of Siloam near the Old City of Jerusalem. A dark, 1748-foot tunnel, it is thought to have been built under King Hezekiah in the 7th century B.C. to bring water to the city in the case of a siege (the pool at that time was in the city walls). A siege by Assyrians occurred in 701 B.C. and failed in part, presumably, because the people in the city had enough water. The tunnel was thought to have been built by construction crews who started at opposites ends and met each other halfway. An inscription marking the meeting point reads: "whilst three cubits [remained] to be bored...the voice of a man calling his fellow [was heard]...the tunnellers struck, in the direction of his fellow, pick against pick. And the water started to flow." ▪ The tunnels twists and turns in a meandering way. Scholars have long wondered why a serpentine 1748-foot tunnel was built rather than an a direct 1050-foot one and how the construction crews could find each in an era before compasses had been invented. Studies by geologists later showed that the tunnel was not really built. The builders of the tunnel simply modified existing natural tunnels.

The inscription found in the Siloam tunnel is generally dated on paleographic grounds and content (see 2 Kings 22:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30) to the reign of Hezekiah. [...when] (the tunnel) was driven through. And this was the way in which it was cut through:- While [...] (were) stil [...] axe (s), each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, [there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right [and on the left]. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed (the rock), each man toward his fellow, axe against axe; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1,200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head (s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits. [Source: James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, (ANET), p. 321, Princeton, 1969, web.archive.org]

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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