Archive for June, 2014

A Religious Revolution in Yehud?

June 30, 2014

The title of this post references a new book (based on a workshop held in 2010) edited by Christian Frevel, Katharina Pyschny, & Izak Cornelius. It bears the subtitle, “The Material Culture of the Persian Period as a Test Case”, & contains an article by Oded Lipschits & David S. Vanderhooft, “Continuity and Change in the Persian Period Judahite Stamped Jar Administration”. Dr. Lipschits has graciously made a PDF version of it available on his Academia page.

Yours truly was thrilled beyond imagination to see his first book listed in the bibliography on p. 64, as well as credit for the chronological division of LMLK seal sets in footnote #1 on p. 44:

The division between ‘before Sennacherib’ [sic] and ‘after-Sennacherib’ lmlk stamp impressions had already been suggested by Grena (2004:337), based on 13 lmlk jar handles from 7th century ‘Babylonian Attack’ strata in Jerusalem, Arad, Lachish, Timna [sic] and Horvat Shilha.

Fig. 1 on p. 47 bears 8 of my original seal drawings (with my divider dots & slashes erased, & isometric shading added), which for some strange reason, the authors still refused to credit to me on p. 62:

Main lmlk types (drawings by Ido Koch; first published in: Lipschits, Sergi & Koch 2010: fig. 1 pp. 12-13).

I based my chronological division on a completely original set of computer-aided drawings, but you wouldn’t know it from reading this. (And there was paper space for a sentence or phrase clarifying the source of the drawings.)

Their f/n #1 surprisingly acknowledges Chang-Ho Ji’s detailed 2001 NEAS article on Circles:

The first suggestion to see the development of the stamped jar handles as part of a long process, begun at the end of the 8th century BCE and continuing until the destruction of Jerusalem was made by Ji 2001.

I’m happy to see Lipschits & Vanderhooft researching the subject, but like the misleading credit to Koch, the wording used for Ji’s work also seems odd. Ji was following the conventional “long process” schemes of others. For example, in JPOS v5 (1925), W.F. Albright made the first relatively accurate dating of the Judean stamped jar-handle system:

Archaeologically speaking, the handles belong to the period between the eighth and the sixth centuries, and a date between 750 and 590 B.C., such as I should propose for other reasons, is eminently satisfactory.

In other words, a “a long process, begun at the end of the 8th century BCE and continuing until the destruction of Jerusalem“! The well-known 1961 work of Yigael Yadin in BASOR 163 (“The Fourfold Division of Judah”) suggested relatively minor differences:

It seems to me that [LMLKs] were first introduced in the days of Uzziah. … I believe that the “concentric sign” should be taken as a third royal symbol, identical with the rosette symbol, although schematic in form for obvious technical reasons. … Thus the incision of the circles replaced the old emblem (and in fact nullified it) on the jars which survived from the previous period. If this suggestion is correct, then the rosette and circles are the latest in the series of the royal emblems, and I would incline to attribute them to the latter part of Josiah’s reign.

David Ussishkin’s major contribution in the 1970s resulting from his Lachish excavations, was to coerce all the LMLKs (x2x, x4x, & CCs) either down from Uzziah’s reign or up from Josiah’s to Hezekiah’s (depending on which view a scholar held about Lachish Level 3), with Rosettes remaining near the end. But then the Kelm/Mazar team found some x2x & 1 w/ CCs in the post-Sennacherib stratum at Timnah/Batash, prompting them to speculate that their production might’ve continued after that attack.

Eilat & Benjamin Mazar followed this line of reasoning when publishing the Ophel corpus in Qedem 29 (1989):

It seems that the concentric circle design should be dated either together with the jars bearing ‘LMLK’ stamps [in the 8th century], or to the early 7th century, when at least some of these jars were still in use. On the other hand, no connection, either in actual appearance on vessels or in stratigraphic terms, has been found between the concentric circles and the ‘rosette’ stamps. ‘Rosette’ stamps are found on the floors of destruction levels of 586 B.C.E., while not a single example of concentric circles has been found among the repertoire of this period.

A couple of curiosities within Ji’s article are that he believed some of the CCs were impressed into pre-fired clay, rather than being incised into fired clay; & that x2x stamps continued to be used again after CCs:

[T]the most peculiar observation is that jar handles were found at Gibeon, Jerusalem and possibly Ramat Rahel, bearing concentric-circles stamped just beside the two-winged lmlk stamp, apparently on the wet clay before the pot was fired.

[S]ometime during the early/mid 7th-century B.C., there was an attempt, most likely by Manasseh, to change the royal symbol from the two-winged sun-disc to the concentric circles … this attempted replacement was short-lived and incomplete, in that the two-winged symbol appears to have retained its legitimacy until the late 7th century B.C.

Personally, I admire Ji for bringing attention to CCs, & expanding upon previously published interpretations. The main gripe raised by Ussishkin last year was not that Lipschits made a mistake in overlooking stuff by me, van der Veen, & Stern, but that he (& his doctoral students) deliberately copied aspects of our work & claimed the credit. (I also emphasized Israel Finkelstein’s role in aiding/abetting the intellectual theft.)

In any case, it’s nice to see Lipschits (& Vanderhooft) at least attempting to give credit where it’s due, even if their notes don’t tell the whole story. If you’re new to this discussion, it should make you wonder how reliable their reconstruction of ancient history is, when they can’t reliably retell modern history.

G.M. Grena