03 September 2010

Photos of Display on Daily Life in Ancient Israel

For more information about life in Bible times, check out my novels Prophet of Israel and Judge of Israel, available from www.timothywilkinson.net.

By Timothy S. Wilkinson

On the 31 July I hosted a party for the release of my new book, Judge of Israel. For the party I set up a miniature museum-type display dealing with everyday life in Ancient Israel. For all of you who weren't able to come, I thought I would share some of the highlights of that display. I do plan to re-do the presentation later this year in a couple of more public venues.
I hope you enjoy it!

Stephanie White loaned me this ancient Bible to display 1 Samuel 7, on which "Judge of Israel" is based
This is a replica of a limestone plaque discovered by R. A. S. Macalister in 1908 in the excavations of the city of Gezer. It is believed to be a schoolboy’s writing exercise (not unlike our “Thirty days hath September”)—the penmanship is of poor quality. The calendar dates to the second half of the 10th century B.C.E., and summarizes the yearly activities of the ancient Israelite farmer:

His two months are olive harvest
His two months are planting grain
His two months are late planting
His month is hoeing up of flax
His month is harvest of barley
His month is harvest and feasting
His two months are vine-tending
His month is summer fruit

This single tiny artifact answered a number of questions about the ancient agricultural year, and provided historians with a glimpse into the worlds of a farmer and a schoolboy in the days of King David.
The Lachish Letters are a group of letters written in carbon ink in Archaic Hebrew on clay ostraca. (Ostraca are pieces of broken pottery used as writing surfaces in ancient times—papyrus, vellum, and other alternatives were simply too expensive for everyday correspondence). The individual ostracon probably come from the same broken clay pot. They were written to Joash, likely the military commander at Lachish, from Hoshaiah, a military officer stationed nearby.

The letters were probably written shortly before Lachish fell to the Babylonian army in 588-586 B.C.E. during the last years of Jeremiah’s life and during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.

They were discovered by J.L. Starkey in January and February of 1935 and are currently the property of the British Museum in London.
From ancient times, the sling has been a weapon of shepherds and warriors. One end is tied to the hand or looped around a finger (as in this example), and the other end was held in the hand to be freed when the sling was swung. This sling is an accurate replica of one found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (d. 1343 B.C.E.). The cord is made of braided flaxe and the pouch is of leather. The stones displayed were the size commonly used in battle.
A sling this size can hurl a stone at nearly 200 miles per hour, capable not only of killing an armored man but of completely removing a limb. Shepherds who spent all day, every day with their sheep in the fields used slings to pick crows and other birds from off of the backs of their flock (crows will eat the eyes out of a living sheep if given the chance). They became incredibly skilled with the weapon. At Judges 20:16, Samuel describes a team of 700 ambidextrous Benaminites who were “slingers of stones to a hairbreadth and would not miss.”
By far the most common type of sword from Egypt to Lebanon, and from the early Bronze Age to mid-way through the Iron Age was the khopesh, or sickle-sword. This is an exact duplicate of a blade found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, but countless thousands of the same design were made throughout the centuries. It is vertically-cast bronze, in every way identical to the swords that most Israelites would have carried in the 10th century B.C.E. The sword is small to our eyes for several reasons: people at the time were smaller (probably 69 inches was the average height for a grown man), bronze was expensive, and the leverage provided by a longer blade made the sword more likely to break in battle.
Seeing this sword gives new meaning to the famous words in Isaiah 2:4 “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” The khopesh began as a sickle. Kings could not afford to provide weapons for all of their people who only became soldiers in times of war. Each man would simply bring his farm implement into battle, adjusting its shape slightly and perhaps sharpening the outer edge. When peace was restored, swords would be ‘beaten into’ farm tools once again.
Archaeologists differentiate between daggers and swords by their length. Somewhat arbitrarily, any blade 16 inches or shorter was a dagger; anything longer was a sword. That makes this piece, at a little over 17 inches, a sword. It is vertically cast solid bronze with silver inlay. The so-called “Type F” was a simple, straight-bladed, double-edged sword suitable for close combat. This design was used primarily by warlike cultures, since the amount of bronze required made it unusually expensive to produce, and the design was not easily adapted to other purposes. 
The sword type classified “Naue II” is a basic design found across Europe and the Middle East throughout the Bronze Age. This piece is vertically hollow-cast bronze with silver filigree and represented the pinnacle of technology for the people of the day. The shape of the blade and hilt are fairly typical of a type of sword the Mycenaean Greeks, like the Philistines, might have carried. 
Axes, single and double-headed, have been used as weapons since the earliest days of history. They were popular weapons in Palestine in the 10th century B.C.E. among the Canaanite peoples. They owed this popularity in part to the fact that they were common and could be carried into battle by common men who could not afford to own a sword. They were also effective against even heavy armor and defensive weapons. This example is medieval in style, but the designs of axes changed so little through the centuries that it is quite similar to those made two millennia earlier.
The dagger on the right is a replica of the meteorite steel dagger that was found on the body of King Tutankhamen. It was forged for me by my younger brother, Leif.
This lamp design (called a "pinched" lamp) is found all over Palestine. The receptacle is filled with olive oil and a twisted flaxen cord is laid in it as a wick. It burns with a remarkably bright and clean flame.
The bow (Hebrew qesheth) is one of the most ancient of weapons and was used by every Bronze and Iron Age culture of the Middle East. 2 Samuel 22:35 refers to a “bow of copper,” probably referring to the practice of reinforcing the wooden limbs of the bow with thin sheets of copper, bone, horn, or sinew. Arrows (Hebrew chistsim) were made of reed shafts or light wood. Arrowheads were made of flint, bone, or metal. Metal arrowheads did not become common until late into the Bronze Age because of the considerable expense of making enough of them to equip an army, knowing that, unlike spear and javelin heads, most would not be recovered after the battle.
This bow is oak (common in Palestine in David’s day) and the arrow shafts are cedar. The arrow head is copper.
Goliath was a hero of the Philistine army during David’s boyhood. The Bible account says that he was “six cubits and a span” (9 ft 5.75 in) tall. Two hundred years earlier, the Hittites had forged a dagger from a meteorite that had ended up in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. It is not unreasonable that the Philistines, having learned iron-working from the Hittites, would have used the same precious material to forge the sword of their champion.
This blade is a standard Mycenaean Greek, one-handed design scaled up to be suitable for Goliath. Interestingly, David took this sword as his own after defeating Goliath, and wielded it for the rest of his life.
Iron Javelin
Iron Spear

1 comment:

tristenpullman said...