Signs of Administration in the early Kingdom of Judah?

A new article by Hoo-Goo Kang and Yosef Garfinkel on marked jar handles is available for free download. These handles date to the early 10th century and point to governmental authority in the region of Judah. The authors conclude the impressed handles were precursors to the stamped handles known from later governments in Judah.

Stamped jar handles are known in Judah throughout most of the 1st millennium BC. Handles from the 8th and 7th centuries were stamped with the Hebrew letters “LMLK” (Belonging to the King”). The authors believe this marked the jars’ contents as taxes collected by the government. The tradition of stamped government jars continued in Judah throughout Judahite, Persian, Greek, and Hasmonean administrations.

Hundreds of finger-impressed handles were recently found in an early 10th century context at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The authors believe this indicates a change in the political organization of Judah around that time.

You may downloaded the article here: The abstract reads as follows:

Excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa in 2007–13 revealed an extraordinary number of finger-impressed jar handles of the Iron Age. They are classified into six types and their geographical and chronological distributions examined. Although some excavators define them as potter’s marks, this is not the case. It is also clear that the number of impressions is not related to the jars’ capacity. This paper attempts to understand the finger-impressed handles as part of the Judean tradition of stamped jar handles, and we suggest that they may be a precursor of the LamMeLeKh (LMLK) jars and a marker of administration in the early Iron Age IIA. The impressed jar handles are indicative of a major change in political organization, from Bronze Age Canaanite city states to Iron Age nation states.

Impressed jar handles from Khirbet Qeiyafa. The impressions appear to have served an administrative function, which may indicate a taxing authority in 10th century BC Judah. (Courtesy of the Khirbet Qeiyafa Expedition)

Impressed jar handles from Khirbet Qeiyafa. They appear to have served an administrative function and may indicate a taxing authority in early 10th century BC Judah. (Courtesy of the Khirbet Qeiyafa Expedition)

The authors suggest the handles in the above photo were precursors to this type of handle stamp from the later Judahite governments:

LMLK stamped jar handle from the Kingdom of Judah. (courtesy of Funhistory at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

LMLK stamped jar handle from the Kingdom of Judah, ca. 8th century BC.  (courtesy of Funhistory at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

By the end of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century BC, these kinds of jar handles were stamped in the same location with a rosette (or sun with rays?) image. The tradition of stamped governmental jars continued for centuries.

Stamped jar handle from ca. 6th century BC, in the final stages of the Kingdom of Judah. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Stamped jar handle from ca. 6th century BC, in the final stages of the Kingdom of Judah. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

 

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in archaeologists, Biblical Archaeology, General Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Publications & Study Materials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Signs of Administration in the early Kingdom of Judah?

  1. pithom says:

    I’d only be really impressed by this argument if these handles were also found at Gibeon or Jerusalem.

    • G.M. Grena says:

      Due to time constraints, I skipped so many trays of (unpublished?) non-LMLK Gibeon artifacts in the basement of UPMA that I wouldn’t rule it out yet. The authors mention A-1 specimens found at el-Ful & Jerusalem in f/n 7 (& an A-3 also in Jerusalem), but I’m guessing you won’t be “really impressed” by onesies & twosies. Still, plenty of research opportunities await for young scholars like Kang, & that’s exciting! Kudos to him & Garfinkel for at least jump-starting the subject. Maybe there’s even another Qeiyafa-like site/hoard awaiting excavation somewhere.

      And thanks, Luke, for posting this info. They told me about it last November, & I was prepared to bug them next month if it had remained unpublished. I’m looking forward to studying the whole article this weekend.

      • pithom says:

        I’m not ruling out anything; just stating some hypothetical pieces of evidence which would clarify my assessment of the situation.

        Onesies and twosies are important pieces of evidence, surely, but I did not say “if only”. 🙂 I really wouldn’t be surprised if more excavations around the Elah Valley yield findings consistent with non-Philistine expansion to the West in the later Iron Age I.

  2. G.M. Grena says:

    The authors say parenthetically on p. 202 (bottom-left column) that soldiers were known as “men of the king“. Unfortunately they did not provide a reference. Does anyone know of any ancient literature that states this?

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