New LMLK Data from Pennsylvania (Part 2 of 2)

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent Sun 6/8/2003 7:23 PM, about a month before I began writing my LMLK vol. 1 book. At that time, I did not yet have permission to publish the photos, but later obtained it. Visit to see the Beth Shemesh handles & to see the Gibeon handles. The photos described below contain excavation #s that in most cases can be cross-referenced on those 2 web pages.]


Pithoi: A total of 4 pithoi handles were excavated from el-Jib. At the time, Pritchard was unaware of the distinction between these & Type 484s, so now is a good time to set the record straight on which 4 he found.

photo-22: Field # 1451 contains a stamp that is unclassifiable beyond x4C (Lemaire’s Ia; Diringer’s Class I). It was either not excavated from the pool or it was very, very deep in the pool–I did not have time to find its card in the archives.

photo-23: Field # 515 contains a Z4CY stamp from the pool at 8.80-9.00m, which Lemaire denies the existence of by assuming it’s a distorted Z4CI (his Z Ia) impression. This stamp matches the pithos in my Redondo Beach collection & the famous Beersheba pithos, which Aharoni accepted as a unique stamp along with Rainey (& Barkay affirmed it in JQE).

photos-24/25: For comparison purposes & thoroughness, I’m including these 2 photos of the famous M4C (Lemaire’s M Ia), which is on permanent display at UPenn (Field # 523 from the pool at 9.00-9.80m). Pritchard only published the seal oval, so now you can see the entire handle from a side perspective & also the back. What is important to note, which you cannot know from the photo, is that the region that appears to be the head of the icon is actually a large, flat white grit–not the impression. So the head of this seal’s icon is still unknown. I have to re-scrutinize it with the only other known M4C–the one Barkay identified in JQE as being from an alternative seal.

photos-26/27/28/29/30: Now for the creme of the crop of my discoveries! This handle (Field # 542 from the pool at 10.00-10.30m) ruined my day because I wanted to believe all the pithoi were stamped with either an M4C or Z4CY seal. That would’ve made it easier to support the LMLK pithoi as chronologically distinct from the Type 484 LMLK stamps. But alas, as you can see, this is indeed a pithos handle with an x4L (Lemaire’s Ib). So this opens the door for the possibility of one day finding pithoi with 2-winged seals as well. Another interesting feature of this handle is its whitewash–it’s definitely not the white patina normally seen in patches on LMLK handles. The normal patina usually wraps around over the broken portions of the handle & onto the internal jar side. And I’m just kidding about it ruining my day; I was elated to make this important discovery.

photos-31/32: As I was getting ready to leave, I couldn’t help but notice all the famous handles inscribed “GB’N” in a tray. Having only seen black/white photos of them in books, what stood out was their reddish/pinkish colors & texturing. Their fabric/ware matches the LMLK pithoi handles! Here are photos of 2 of them for your consideration. Bear in mind that the Mommsen et al report on provenience from IEJ vol. 34 states that no samples from el-Jib were used, & it is quite possible that Jerusalem’s Motza clay could have been used to manufacture the pithoi & GB’N jars at nearby Gibeon (or maybe the jars were made/inscribed in Jerusalem & sent to Gibeon for filling).

photo-33: Speaking of stamps that Lemaire dismissed, this photo of eight 2-winged, divided SWKH impressions should dismiss Lemaire’s dismission once & for all. In the upper-left corner is an impression from Tell en-Nasbeh that I photographed at the Bade Institute last year. In the lower-right is an impression from my Redondo Beach Collection. The other 6 photos are of handles at UPenn excavated from Gibeon. The 4 on the left clearly indicate a different seal (I call it S2DR; Welten, who also recognized it as a distinct seal, called it S IIA 2) from the 4 on the right (I call it S2DW; Lemaire’s S IIb). Notice these specific differences that characterize the 2 seals:

1) The S2DR wings are drawn more rigid than those of the S2DW, which are more wavy (especially the right one).

2) The initial lamed of the S2DR is shorter & closer to the right wing tip.

3) The bottom of the S2DR’s mem is farther from the wing & closer to the head of the icon.

4) The bottom of the S2DR’s initial kaph is much closer to the left wing & does not curve upward.

5) The S2DR’s waw is much closer to the tail of the icon.

6) The S2DR’s final kaph is to the left of the icon’s tail, whereas the S2DW’s kaph is below it.

ID#s for reference from top to bottom & left to right:
Mizpah M696
Gibeon 541 (from pool at 10.00-10.30m)
Gibeon 532 (from pool at 9.80-10.00m)
Gibeon 146 (excavated from Dump area)
Gibeon 485 (from pool at 7.60-7.80m)
Gibeon 415 (from pool at 6.50-6.60m)
Gibeon 454 (from pool at 6.60-7.30m)
Redondo 18

Now back to a discussion of circles:

photo-34: Field #76 (excavated from Trench III E1, not published by Andy or Pritchard) shows an interesting execution of the circles with similar diameters resulting in a nearly single, wide trench. This handle has no other marks.

photo-35: Field #931, mentioned by Andy in his dissertation, also exhibits the close circles resulting in a single, wide trench. Though not quite as dramatic as #76, I found it interesting nonetheless.

photo-36: Field #341 (from the pool at 5.00-5.30m) is not a Type 484 handle. It’s the smaller cooking pot type & it has incised circles. They are similar to those found on LMLK handles with the noteworthy exception being that they have 3 circles instead of 2, & they do not have a central anchor dot! So they must have been incised with a tool different from what was used on the LMLK handles. Andy mentioned this one in his dissertation.

photo-37: Here is a group photo for comparison. It includes the small handle with 3 circles (Field # 341), a LMLK handle with 2 circles (Field # 500, the one with the hollow handle), & an extremely large handle with 3 circles that were marked in the wet clay before firing! This large handle is Field # 828, & I did not have time to find its excavation report in the archives, but it was in the same tray as the other handles published by Andy, so I suspect that it was not found in the pool.

By the way, in the upcoming weeks, I’m going to be revising the Circles page of my website to include my own measurements of circles & stratigraphy from various sites.

photo-38: Although this handle is not related to the LMLK handles, I found it fascinating to see in person & wanted to share this good, color photo with you. I remember seeing a photo of this handle or one just like it in some other excavation journal from some other site, but I can’t remember which one. Anyway, it’s from the handle of a small cooking pot like the one in the 2 previous photos, but instead of 3 circles, it has an incised chicken with great detail. I remember reading about it in that journal because the author speculated that the pot was probably used to cook chicken soup! Anyway, the important point I want to make is that whoever incised this lovely chicken was certainly capable of incising 3 circles without the aid of a central anchor dot.

The majority of handles excavated from Beth Shemesh in the 1930s are now at UPenn (20 with LMLK seals & 1 with only Circles). Since Beth Shemesh was in the Shephelah & likely conquered by Sennacherib but not resettled in the 7th century, I expected to find a majority of x4x & x2U seals with only a minority (if any) of x2D, x2T, & circles. As it turns out, there were no impressions that I could classify as x2D & x2T, & there was only a single handle with circles (no LMLK seal). I was saddened upon seeing so many large fragments, which indicates that if the excavators had done a more thorough job, they probably would’ve been able to restore several complete jars. None of the handles had extraordinary characteristics, but here are a few highlights:

photo-39: An H2U (Lemaire’s H IIa) stamped a second time such that the nun appears way up in the top-left register.

photo-40/41/42: Here are two handles with an unusually pronounced ridge on the handle. Photos 40 & 41 show two angles of the same handle; Photo 42 shows a second handle probably from the same jar. The reason for them appearing to have different colors is that the second one is on permanent display in a UPenn display case & I was at the mercy of its lighting. Both handles have partial Z4CI impressions (Lemaire’s Z Ia).

photos-43/44: This handle has a whitewash similar to the x4L pithos in Photos 26/27/28/29/30 with the difference being that the potter apparently masked the handle so that the jar would be all white & the handles naturally red. Of course, I’m just speculating since all we have is a handle, but it would look fancy that way.

photos-45/46/47: The average LMLK jar thickness is about 6mm, with the range being from 3-9mm. The jar in these photos is unusually thick (12-15mm). This is the only LMLK handle I’ve ever seen where the majority of the fragment is of the jar wall, & the handle fragment is the minority–usually it’s the opposite!

At the Magill Library of Haverford College (the original sponsors of the excavation), there is only one real handle (a Z2U; Lemaire’s Z IIa) & 13 plaster casts of impressions. 10 of those casts are of handles now at UPenn; the other 3 are probably at the IAA. Just this week I received a complete(?) list of 162 LMLK handles at the IAA; 6 of them are from Beth Shemesh.

Here’s a complete breakdown of their inventory:

1–H. Sirta (near Acco)
1–En Shoqef (Tell ash-Shuqf)
40–Ramat Rahel
6–Beth Shemesh
2–Tel Goded (Moresheth Gath)
1–Tel Halif
1–Tel Miqne
2–Beersheba (one is presently here in L.A.)
5–Tel ‘Erani
12–Jerusalem (1968)
4–Jerusalem (1986)
11–Jerusalem (1993)
30–Jerusalem (1996)

Two final, important photos I want to share with you–I found both of these in Pritchard’s archives at UPenn. In 1959, he published the el-Jib handles & described them as being either at Philadelphia or Amman… except for these two, which he described as being “lost”–now, 4 decades later they’ve been found:

photo-48: Field # 318, Stamp # 88, from the pool at 4.6-5.0m.

photo-49: Field # 368, Stamp # 117, from the pool at 5.3-5.8m.

G.M. Grena


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