IRON AGE (1200 - 550 B.C.E.)


The Iron Age is divided into two subsections, Iron I and Iron II. Iron I (1200-1000) illustrates both continuity and discontinuity with the previous Late Bronze Age. There is no definitive cultural break between the thirteenth and twelfth century throughout the entire region, although certain new features in the hill country, Transjordan and coastal region may suggest the appearance of the Aramaean and Sea People groups. There is evidence, however, that shows strong continuity with Bronze Age culture, although as one moves later into Iron I the culture begins to diverge more significantly from that of the late second millennium.

Iron II (1000-550) witnessed the rise of the states of Judah and Israel in the tenth-ninth century. These small principalities exercise considerable control over their particular regions due in part to the decline of the great powers, Assyria and Egypt, from about 1200 to 900. Beginning in the eighth century and certainly in the seventh century, Assyria reestablishes its authority over the eastern Mediterranean area and exercises almost complete control. The northern state of Israel is obliterated in 722/721 by King Sargon and its inhabitants taken into exile. Judah, left alone, gradually accommodates to Assyrian control, but towards the end of the seventh century it does revolt as the Assyrian empire disintegrated. Judah's freedom was short-lived, however, and eventually snuffed out by the Chaldean kings who conquered Jerusalem and took some of the ruling class into exile to Babylon. During the period of exile in Babylon, the area, particularly from Jerusalem south, shows a mark decline. Other areas just north of Jerusalem are almost unaffected by the catastrophe that befell Judah.

Aharoni, Yohanan. The Archaeology of the Land of Israel.
    Philadelphia, 1978. pp. 153-279.

Kenyon, Kathleen & Moorey, P.R.S. The Bible and Recent 
    Archaeology. Atlanta, 1987., pp. 51-138.

Mazar, Amihai. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible
    New York, 1985., pp. 295-550.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum possesses a rich collection in Iron Age material from almost all its excavated sites. The Beth Shan strata are particularly helpful in illustrating the continuity with the Bronze Age in Iron I. The same probably can be said for the Sa'idiyeh cemetery. Beth Shemesh, however, shows the discontinuity with the Late Bronze Age given its somewhat intrusive Aegean evidence usually associated with the Philistines. In Iron II, the following sites adequately cover the culture: Gibeon, Beth Shemesh, Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Sarepta and to a lesser extent Beth Shan. Many of the small finds photographed below come from Gibeon, Sa'idiyeh and Beth Shemesh. Models and simulations are taken from publications of Sa'idiyeh and Sarepta.


PHILISTINES AND SEA PEOPLES: Although the earliest depictions of Sea People occur in the reign of Seti I, the major incursion of these Aegean people happened about a century later during the reign of Ramesis III of the Twentieth Dynasty. Around 1180, Ramesis III defeated the Sea People in a land and sea battle at the borders of Egypt (ANEP., 341, 813). The Philistines, one of the Sea People groups, are easily identified on the depiction of the battles by their distinctive headdresses. Since the 1920's, most scholars have linked those headdresses with some of the anthropoid coffin burials from Beth Shan and elsewhere in Eretz Israel. Be aware that a few scholars do not link all coffin burials with the Philistines, but with other groups including Canaanites and Egyptians. Besides the headdresses and biblical references, archaeological data suggest the appearance of a new group along the coast. The distinctive Philistine ware (Mycenean IIIc1b) appears in the twelfth century and continues into the eleventh century. This pottery tradition has close parallels to Cyprus as well as other islands in the eastern Mediterranean, and suggests that the Sea People may have originated from the eastern Mediterranean rather than Crete (Amos 9:7 and Jeremiah 47:4). Cremation burial, which can be cited from Anatolia and the Aegean, occurred in the coastal region beginning in the twelfth century and continued well into the seventh century.

The Philistine pentapolis came under control of David and remained generally part of Judah or Israel for most of the 10th and probably part of the ninth century. Later some of the Philistine city states exercised independence from the descendants of Jacob. Also, the general region became known as the land of the Palestu (=Palestine), or Philistines.

Recent excavations at Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tell Miqne (Ekron), Tell esh- Sharia (Ziklag) and Tell Qasile are amplifying our understanding of this intrusive Aegean culture. Sites, such as Ain Shems and even Sarepta, provide additional information on related cultures (e.g. Phoenicians).

Dothan, Trude. The Philistines and their Material Culture 
    (Jerusalem, 1981).

ISRAELITES: When exactly the Israelite tribes settled or conquered the hill country of Palestine is somewhat debated due in part to a lack of conclusive evidence. Certainly in the twelfth century we begin to find evidence of a variant type of village culture in the hill country composed of small unfortified settlements, pillared houses, numerous silos, limited pottery repertoire and presence of collared-rim storage jar. There appear to be numerous such sites particularly but not exclusively north of Jerusalem in the tribal inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh; in fact, there is a definite growth in settled population all along the hill country spur in Iron I. This culture pattern may extend into the lowlands at some sites later in Iron I (Megiddo).

For further information, see:

Aharoni, Y. "New Aspects of the Israelite Occupation in the North."
     Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, Essays in 
     Honor of Nelson Gleuck. (New York, 1970).
Finkelstein, Israel. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement.
     (Jerusalem, 1988).
Weippert, Manfred. The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine.
     (Illinois, 1971).

Early in Iron II, major sites (Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer) show extensive construction on what appears to be similar plans. Other facilities are added in the next century expanding the types of "monumental" structures. Perhaps the most interesting of the new sites, the royal capital at Samaria, further amplifies our information about the Israelite culture in the ninth-eighth centuries. As for sites further to the south along the hill country spur, they also show a planned society with fortified cities, well-laid out streets, pillared houses, large warehouses, and complex water-systems. We have good evidence of industrial and agricultural activities, much more so than in the Bronze Age. Towards the end of Iron II, the material culture declines percipitously as sites are destroyed and are either abandoned or rebuilt on a more modest scale. Intrusive material particularly Mesopotamia also becomes more common place at a number of tells (Megiddo and Hazor). Finally, almost all the known Iron Age cities from Jerusalem southward are either destroyed or abandoned by the beginning of the sixth century.

The "historical" books of the bible remain the primary witness to the culture of Israel and Judah. The text, almost a polemic of the southern tribes against the religiosity of the northern tribes and other neighboring peoples, was composed mostly during this period and is written in part to chronological deity's actions in history. Care must be taken in using the text for historical reconstruction, however. First, it is hardly a complete history of the region and focuses mostly on Judaean society particularly in and around Jerusalem. Some of these works are obviously secondary sources or summaries (e.g. Kings and Chronicles), whereas others may be closer to first-hand accounts( e.g. Prophetic material). Second, the work as a whole is polemical and fails to present a modern, objective historical description of what happened in the past. Modern historians using current ideas in historiography, nevertheless, can work with these and other materials, including archaeological remains and other extra-biblical witnesses, to develop a sparse outline of the history of the descendants of Jacob.

CANAANITES: The Bronze Age culture does not suddenly disappear in the twelfth century. In fact, culture changes very little in the first half of Iron I at sites like Megiddo or Beth Shan. This may suggest that there is no significant cultural break throughout the entire region at the beginning of the Iron Age. As one examines later levels at these and other sites, however, the Bronze Age culture begins to alter. Primary burial practices slowly disappears in favor of secondary burial (Tell el-Farah S or Zeror) by the tenth century. Courtyard houses, a common Bronze Age form, is replaced by pillared houses at a number of sites in Iron II. Egyptianized artifacts are less common in Iron II except for sites along the immediate coast. Bronze weapons and forms are replaced by iron weapons. New Iron II artifacts begin to appear throughout the entire region. Thus, gradually, it seems, many of the characteristic forms and contexts of Bronze Age culture become less evident in later levels of Iron II, although it would be incorrect to conclude that the Bronze Age culture, we call Canaanite, disappeared entirely due to points of continuity that continue unabated from Bronze Age to Iron Age (e.g. compare the artifacts in Shrine 1 Sarepta with the temple of stratum VII-VI Beth Shan).

PHOENICIANS: The coastal region north of Carmel had been known since the time of Thothmosis IV as the land of the Fenkeu, or Phoenicians. In the Iron Age the Phoenician merchants plied their martime trade on the Mediterranean and were the first mariners to circumnavigate Africa. They established a number of Punic colonies in North Africa, Spain, France, Italy and the Aegean islands. Much of their culture in the Lebanese coast, however, remains undocumented in part due to disturbance of Iron Age sites by later Persian, Hellenistic and Roman cultures. Sarepta, excavated by James Pritchard, is one of the few sites from which we can document in Phoenicia proper the culture of these mariners of old in their homeland.

In many ways, one can summarize the material culture from Phoenicia and its colonies as reflecting developments on Canaanite culture from the Bronze Age. (Compare, for example, the small shrine at Sarepta to the Bronze Age temples from Beth Shan.) Of course, this culture is greatly influenced by the Aegean world and continues to reflect that eclectic world we characterize as Canaanite in the Bronze Age.

EGYPTIAN Although it may be interpreted from Egyptian written sources that Egypt exercised little control over this region after the Nineteenth Dynasty, the archaeological evidence from Palestine suggests otherwise at least for the first kings of the Twentieth Dynasty. Beth Shan remained an Egyptian colony with houses built according to Egyptian style, complete with door lintel inscriptions in hieroglyphics. Egyptian architectural structures, square-shaped houses made of mud-brick, occur at Aphek, Ashdod, Beth Shan (1550 and 1700 houses), Gaza, Hesi, Jemmeh, Joppa, Tell el-Farah S (Sharuhen) and Tell Masos and Tell esh- Sharia (Ziklag). The Timna copper mines continue to be controlled until perhaps Ramesis VI. Egyptian pottery can be cited from many early Iron I sites as well. In summary, it seems at least plausible to suggest that Egypt continued to dominate this region at least until the mid-part of the century and perhaps to the end of the century at least at Beth Shan.

Egyptian contact in Iron II is limited to minor incursions. I Kings 9:16 records that the Egyptian Pharaoh destroyed Gezer. Shishak, the first Pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty, led a military campaign during the fifth year of Rehoboam, Solomon's son (1 Kings 14:25-26, 2 Chronicles 12:2- 9). A boundary stela of the Egyptian monarch was set up at Megiddo, and the king recorded his victory on the first pylon at the Temple of Karnak (ANEP., 349). At the end of the seventh century, Egyptian forces attempted to defeat the army of Sennacherib. Necco, Pharaoh of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, campaigned in Palestine and northward to the Euphrates in 609. Necco's forces defeated Josiah at the Battle of Megiddo where the Judah king was slain in battle (2 Kings 23:29-30, 2 Chronicles 35:20-25).

ASSYRIANS: By the middle of the ninth century, Assyria is exercising some hegemony over the region of Palestine. The Battle of Qarqar (853) may have been a temporary set back for Assyria, but by 840/841 the Assyria King Shalmeneser III is accepting tribute from the Israel King Jehu. In the eighth century, Assyria campaigns throughout the region controlling the political life of the small principalities. Israel continues to try an exercise some independence which leads eventually to its demise in 722/21 when Sargon conquers Israel's capital. A number of Israel's key cities (Hazor and Megiddo) had been captured a decade before by Tiglath-pileser.

Judah remains alone and politically suppressed by Assyria in the seventh century. In 701, Sennacherib attacked most of Judah and even laid siege to Jerusalem. From that point on Judah remains a loyal vassal of Assyria until the reign of Josiah. By then, Assyria was beginning to decay from within, and King Josiah of Judah attempts to play political broker in this region eventually leads to his death at the hands of Egyptian King Necco at the battle of Megiddo (609). By then, Assyria no longer exists for all practice purposes as the Chaldean kings conquered the domains that once were part of Assyria's empire.


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 Iron I 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 Iron I numerous small villages appear.

FORTIFICATIONS (ANEP., 371, 373, 716-719, 721, 862)

IRON I FORTIFICATIONS: Many of the fortification lines built in the Bronze Age continued into the Iron Age 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).

SOLOMONIC (?) FORTIFICATIONS IN IRON II: Solomon is credited with building the Millo, a terrace system in Jerusalem, and reconstructing three cities (1 Kings 9:15-17). Excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer have uncovered a tantalizing, tangible suggestion about this biblical passage. Yigael Yadin understood, the verse to refer to the gate and wall systems around the three sites. With some shrewd sleuthing, particularly with the older site report from Gezer, Yadin showed that the tenth-century construction at the three sites follow the "same" plan. Yadin conjectured that this construction was Solomonic.

Since his original idea, some scholars have questioned the credibility of the Solomonic identification due in part to the discovery of more gates at Ashdod and Lachish. The Lachish gate may date to the tenth century if one concludes that Stratum IV falls in this period, though other archaeologists favor dating the gate to the ninth century.

OTHER GATES: 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 Iron II, 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).

LATER FORTIFICATIONS IN IRON II: 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.

FORTS IN IRON II: 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 Iron II. The fort's building structures, its temple and store rooms, provide further information on the material culture of the region.

Aharoni, Y. "Forerunners of the Limes: Iron Age Fortresses
    in the Negev," IEJ 17 (1967) 1-17.
Cohen, R. "The Iron Age Fortresses in the Central Negev,"
    BASOR 236 (1979) 61-79.
Mazar, A. "Iron Age Fortresses in the Judaean Hills," 
    PEQ 114 (1982) 87-109.


IRON I: 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 or even in any previous archaeology period: 'Izbet Sartah, Ai, Mt. Ebal, Tirzah. (See also regional surveys of the Negev, Galilee and northern hill country.) Later in Iron I, the transition at Megiddo is particularly instructive as lowlands city states show a similar change from Bronze Age city to Iron I village culture.

Finkelstein, I. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement.
     (Jerusalem, 1988), pp. 34-204.

IRON I-II: PILLARED:HOUSES The four-room house with rows of pillar is a defining trait of Iron Age and found both in the hill country and on the Philistine plain. By Iron II 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.

On the suggested Origin of the Pillared House, see:

Finkelstein, I. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement.
     (Jerusalem, 1988), pp. 254-263.
Netzer, Ehud. "Domestic Architecture in the Iron Age,"
     The Architecture of Ancient Israel. (Jerusalem, 1992),

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.

Y. Shiloh, "The Four-Room House: Its Situation and Function in
    the Israelite City," IEJ 20 (1970) 180-190. 

IRON II: STORAGE WAREHOUSES AND/OR CHARIOT DEPOTS (ANEP, 741, 742, 874): 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."

Herr, L. G. "Tripartite Pillared Buildings and the Market Place
    in Iron Age Palestine," BASOR 272 (1988) 43-58.
Pritchard, James B. "The Megiddo Stables: A Reassessment."
   in Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century
   (New York, 1970).
Herzog, Zeev. "Administrative Structures in the Iron Age,"
   The Architecture of Ancient Israel. (Jerusalem, 1992),
   pp. 223-230.

IRON II: OTHER INDUSTRIAL STRUCTURES (ANEP, 145): 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).

Winery at Gibeon
Pottery Kilns from Sarepta
Evidence of looms from Tell es-Sa'idiyeh

IRON I PALACES OR PATRICIAN HOUSES: Late Bronze Age palaces do not disappear early in Iron I and continue to be occupied for the first half of Iron I (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 Iron I Beth Shan remained a central administrative point for Egypt.

EARLY IRON II PALACES: 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.

IRON II PALACES: 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 (ANEP 800 - Ramat Rahel), banisters with palmette pillars with volute capitals (ANEP 799 balustrades from Ramat Rahel). Proto-Aeolic capitals also have been uncovered at Hazor (St. VIII), Jerusalem and Megiddo.

Reich, Ronny. "Palaces and Residences in the Iron Age,"
     The Architecture of Ancient Israel. (Jerusalem, 1992), 
     pp. 202-222.

A rather unique fortress/residence complex at Lachish has no known parallels. This large, monumental structure shows continual rebuilding through most of Iron II.

CITY PLANNING: 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.

Shiloh, Y. "Elements in the Development of Town Planning in the 
    Israelite City," IEJ 28 (1978) 36-51.
Finkelstein, I. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. (Jerusalem,
    1988), pp. 237-254.

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.


IRON I: The temple complex at Beth Shan continues into Iron I. The two temples, often identifed at the Temple of Astarte and Dagon, have elongated rooms with pillars, an altar, and portico entrance. Although the contents of the temples are less replete than that of Stratum VII and VI, they show continuity in contents with the other temples, thus suggestive of a continuation of cultic practices.

At Tell Qasile in Philistia, a building with altars and benches has three stages of construction in Iron I. The last phase parallels the fosse temple at Lachish as well as similar thirteenth and twelfth century temples in the Aegean world.

In the hill country a few contexts have been identified as bamot, high places.At Mt. Eba, a bamah, dated to the thirteenth-twelfth century, had an enclosure wall around a large rectangular altar. Ash, bones and pottery were found. Generally the charred remains of goats, sheep, ox and deer cut off at the joint (See Late Bronze Age temples.)

IRON II: By comparison to the Late Bronze Age, fewer structures in Iron II are identified as temples. At Arad a structure inside the fortress there is thought to be a temple. It lacks the tri-part division of the Temple of Solomon. It does have, however, many of the features of a shrine at Sarepta in Phoenicia, including a stone pillar and an altar with channels. Interestingly, the contents of both religious structures differ somewhat. For example at Sarepta, Pritchard found a collection of figurines, ivory fragment, clay mask and amulets, artifacts absent from the Arad temple (ANEP 872). The collection from Sarepta is more akin to those from the Late Bronze Age. It may be useful to compare the structure and artifaces to the Late Bronze shrine at Tell Mevorakh and the Fosse Temples at Lachish.

Pritchard, James.   Sarepta: A Preliminary Report on the
   Iron Age. (Philadelphia, 1975).

Small limestone altars with four projections at the top occur at a number sites of ninth-eighth century. There is some debate about whether these altars function as incense altars, house altars or horned altars for refuge (ANEP, 575).

WATER SYSTEMS (ANEP, 744 - Siloam tunnel, 875 - Gibeon, 877 - Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, 878 - Gibeon)

IRON I 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 and was filled in some time in the late seventh and sixth centuries.

IRON II: The hidden staircase down the slope of the tell continued to be used into earliest parts of Iron II (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.

BURIAL PRACTICES (ANEP, 456-459, 851- 853)

PRIMARY BURIAL IN IRON I & IRON II: Primary burial continues into the Iron Age with little significant change from Bronze Age examples. Most burials are single or double burials (see Tell es-Sa'idiyeh) in earthen graves (100 cemetery Tell el-Farah S,Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Zeror), stone-lined cists (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Zeror) or cut tombs (Tell el-Farah S 500). More often than not, the burial lies in the supine fully extended position with hands at the side. Children and infants generally lie in a fetal position and may also be deposited in storage jars. This type of burial style continues into Iron II (200 cemetery Tell el-Farah (S) and Zeror Cist Tombs), though in both cemeteries evidence of secondary burial can be cited (see Zeror Cist Tomb 1).

In some of the richer primary burials are placed in anthropoid coffins. Such coffin burials can be cited from many sites in Iron I (Beth Shan Tomb 7 and 66, Tell el-Farah (S) 500). Many archaeologists identify the unique grosteque coffin burials with the Sea People.

By Iron II, the known anthropoid coffin burials occur almost exclusively in the Transjordan at Dhiban, Sahab and Amman (ANEP 851-852 (Dhiban), 853 (Amman)).

Yassine, Khair. "Anthropoid Coffins from Raghdan Royal Palace Tomb in
     Amman," Archaeology of Jordan Amman, 1988.

CREMATION BURIALS IN IRON I & II: Cremation burial, unknown in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, appears in Iron I and continues into Iron II. The earliest form of cremation burial, urn burial, (Azor) occurs almost exclusively in the coastal region of southern Palestine. (NOTE: only two known examples predate the 10th century.) In the tenth-eighth century, these urn burials (er-Reqeish, 200 cemetery Tell el-Farah S) bear striking similarity to contemporary burials in the Phoenician colonies of north Africa. By late Iron II, it appears that cremation urn burials may be replaced by cremation pyre burials (see Atlit), though there is minimal evidence at this time to confirm this observation.

SECONDARY BURIAL IN IRON I & II: Secondary burial, which reappears in the hill country and Transjordan in Iron I, becomes the dominant burial fashion by Iron II. Large bone piles are usually located at the back of the tombs or in specially cut bone pits. Late Iron II tombs, containing secondary burial, have specialized features including bone pits, beds and even pillow rests.

TOMB ARCHITECTURE IN IRON II: Tomb architecture develops from simple rectangular structures with little elaboration in Iron I-II to complex square tombs with specialized features by the end of the Iron Age. The earlier Iron II tombs tend to be rectangular rooms cut into the slope of the tell. By the eighth century, square-shaped tombs replace the rectangular design. Many of these tombs have bone pits in the back, into which earlier burials were swept; beds for the deceased; and even headrests or lamp niches. By the end of the seventh century, some of these square-shaped tombs are linked together around a central entrance much like we find in kokkim tombs of the later periods.

Loffreda, S. " The Late Chronology of Some Rock-Cut Tombs
    of the Selwan Necropolis, Jerusalem," LA 23 (1973) 7-36.


IRON I:There is little change in the shapes and style of pottery from Late Bronze II. An excessive use of paint on the shoulder and upper half of vessels is found on early Iron I vessels, but by late Iron I 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 Iron II. 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 Iron II.

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.

Amiran, Ruth. Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land.                
     (New Jersey, 1970),  pp. 266-269.
Mazar, A. Excavations at Tel Qasile II. Qedem 20.
     (Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 87-117.

IRON II:By Iron II, 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 Iron II, the juglet begins to be burnished slightly, but lacks the luster of the later small palm-sized, black juglets of Iron II. The handles also move further up the neck towards the rim by late Iron II.

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

For further readings, see:
    Amiran, Ruth. Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land.
        New Jersey, 1970.  pp. ??. 



IRON I: Most weapon styles continue into Iron I 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 Iron I 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.

Yadin, Yigael. The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands. Jerusalem,

IRON II:[add]


IRON I: Lotus-seed carnelian beads (Beth Shan Tombs 7, 66) and lunate earrings, typical forms of the Late Bronze II period, occur in Iron I tombs as well. Some of the more common types of amulets are the Ptah Sokar, Uraeus, and Bes. Scarabs remain the typical signet item of Iron I, though, stamp seals, which will become a dominant form in Iron II, begin to appear in burials (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh 118, Baq'ah Valley Cave A4). Gold foil fragments are thought to have been used either to seal the lips of the deceased or to be sown into headdress (that is, frontlets), much as some Late Bronze I burials from Megiddo seem to demonstrate.


EARRINGS: The lunate earring of the Late Bronze and Iron I continues, but undergoes transformation in Iron II. A tab or tassel is added to the earring in the first half of Iron II (see Farah S 200 cemetery, Baq'ah Cave 4). The tassel or tab becomes longer and longer, and the earring itself becomes thicker and heavier, thus reflecting more the general jewelry style of Assyria.

For further discussion on the development of the tassel earring, see:
K.R. Maxwell-Hyslop, Western Asiatic Jewellery c. 3000-612 B.C.
    (London, 1971), pp. 224-227.

BONE PENDANTS: Bone pendants, the most common being long cylinders or minature mallets, are commonly found in tenth-seventh century remains. The pendants have a hole at one end and may be decorated with circular ring designs or incised lines. Such pendants have been found at a number of sites in Palestine. How the pendants were worn is debated.W.F. Albright suggested that they were earrings, though there is much difficulty in determining how they would be fastened to the ear (TBM III. p.81). Others have concluded that they were worn individually as part of a bead necklace.

SCARABS: Scarabs continue to be used as amulets and perhaps signet items. Most common types of scarabs are decorated with animals (lion, fish, horse, scorpion), good luck expressions (usually egyptian symbols for life, prosperity or health) and pharaonic names (sometimes even the names of kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty). Scaraboids, scarab-like seals, appear more frequently.

CYLINDER SEALS: Two motifs dominate seals of this period. The sacred tree with animal(s) and sometimes an individual continues the motif characteristic of many Late Bronze Age 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 OF IRON I-II: Stamp seals first appear at the end of the Late Bronze Age 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.

IRON II: (ANEP, 276-278) Iron I seals continue into Iron II. 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).

Hestrin, R. & Dayagi M. Ancient Seals: First Temple Period. 
    From the Collection of the Israel Museum. Jerusalem, 1979.
Pritchard, James B. Hebrew Inscriptions and Stamps from
    Gibeon. Philadelphia, 1959.

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.


Bangles with overlapping ends become more common than the open- end forms of the Late Bronze Age. Earlier Iron I-II bangles tend to be more slender and tappered than bangles dated to the end of Iron II. These later examples are heavy looking.

AMULETS: Egyptian or egyptianize amulets common to Iron I continue to be found in Iron II. By late Iron II, however, the number and types of amulets decreases dramatically throughout most of the region with the exception of sites on the immediate coast.

FIBULA: The toggle pin, the Bronze Age fastener, disappears by Iron II and is replaced by the fibula, or safety pin. This becomes the preferred fastener of the first millennium. Such fasteners, made of bronze or iron, vary in the shape of the bow and added decorations.

Stronach, David. "The Development of the Fibula in the Near East,"
       Iraq 21 (1959) 181-206.


IRON I: Astarte plaques, that first appeared in the Late Bronze Age, continue into Iron I but disappear by Iron II. The plethora of figurines generally associated with the Iron Age date mostly to Iron II. (see: ANEP, 469.).

A unique figurine, the Ashdoda, appears at the beginning of Iron I and is associated probably with intrusive coastal cultures we often refer to as Philistine. The Ashdoda has close parallels to Aegean figurines and is a female nude encased, it seems, in a couch-like chair.

IRON II: A wide variety of clay figurines, quadrupeds and furniture models can be cited from numerous sites in the region. The female figurines vary in type, although the most common are those with arms folded below protruding breasts (pillared type). The pillared figurines are generally composed of two pieces, a head molded in a bronze mould and an unfashioned clay body shaped like a pillar.

Pritchard, James B. Palestinian Figurines in Relation to Certain
    Goddesses Known through Literature (New Haven, 1943).

QUADRUPEDS: It is often difficult to determine the type of animal depicted in clay, although some are clearly horses with riders, a common form from Iron II into the Persian period. Minature furniture and pottery forms also occur at a few sites (Lachish). Archaeologists are generally divided on whether the figurines are part of the cultic fertility rituals, charms, or simply children's toys.


Two types of clay masks were discovered at Sarepta: seven minature masks and two full-size, life-like mask. Some of these masks have decorated beards and applied paint. Only one mask had attachment holes. The actual function of such masks is a topic of much discussion amongst archaeologists and some of the hypotheses include masks used in rituals (processions and funerary rites), masks placed on on votive statues and masks used for protection against demonic forces. Clay masks occur from Late Bronze (see Hazor and Beth Shan) into the Persian period (Dor). At Tell Qasile, several fragments of full-size masks were found including three fragments of zoomorphic masks, unique pieces with no clear parallels in the region.

W. Cullican, "Some Phoenician Masks and Other Terracottas,"
    Berytus 24 (1975-76) 55-58.
Mazar, Amihai. Excavations at Tell Qasile. Qedem 12.
    (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 84-86.
Pritchard, James B. Sarepta IV.
    (Beirut, 1988), pp. 69-71, Fig. 16.

Other Anthropoid and Zoomorphic jars: At Tel Qasile three uniquely interesting clay vessels were uncovered in association with the so-designated Temple. The first is zoomorphic rhyton, a cup with its bottom in the shape of a lion. The Philistine style on the rhyton aids in dating the piece to Iron I. There are some four other known examples from Megiddo, Tell es-Safi, Tell Jerisheh, and Tell Zeror. The second fascinating vessel, again from the Temple area, was a zoomorphic "trick" vase that when filled with water and turned upside down retains the liquid in a secret compartment. Finally, an anthropoid (probably female) vessel with spout holes at the breasts is another example in a growing corpus of these unique jars, including one from Beth Shan VII, which are often found in association with contexts labelled cultic.

Mazar, Amihai. Excavations at Tell Qasile. Qedem 12.
    (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 78-82, 101-104.


IRON I: 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 and Iron I (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.

Mazar, Amihai. Excavations at Tell Qasile. Qedem 12.
    (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 87-100.

IRON II: At Pella, an altar or incense burner dates to Iron II. 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.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS Various bronze and clay figurines show the types of musical instruments.

RATTLES: Heavy clay rattles occur in some Iron II 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.

WEIGHTS (ANEP 776 - inscribed weights from Ophel [Jerusalem])

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 Iron II period, whorls become more round.


IRON II: Stone cosmetic palettes, flat bowls, date to the ninth-eighth centuries. 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.


IRON I: Bronze bowls, the drinking goblets for wine sets, and even wine strainers occur in some early Iron I 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).

IRON II: Such bronze vessels occur infrequently in Iron II and at only a number of sites near the coast (e.g. Tell el-Farah S 200 cemetery).


IRON I: Little change is noted between alabaster vessels of the end of the Late Bronze and Iron I periods. The dominate forms, the pyxis and tazza, are characteristics shapes although other Late Bronze Age shapes can also be cited including pyxis, kohl pots, and lentoid flask.

IRON II: 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.


Mazar, A. Excavations at Tel Qasile II. Qedem 20.
     (Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 14-16.

Iron I faience vessels vary little from forms of the Late Bronze II. By Iron II 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.


IVORY INLAYS (ANEP, 129-132, 649)

IRON I: A discussion of ivories in Iron I should always begin with the exquisite collection from the palace at Megiddo. Although most archaeologists feel that the 320 pieces fit best into the Late Bronze Age, one inscribed piece with the name of Ramesis III indicates that the collection extends into the twelfth century. In addition, the increasing number of pieces from Iron I contexts (e.g., Beth Shan and Tell Qasile) and their similarity to the Megiddo collection suggests that the tradition and style of the ivory inlays continues into Iron I. The Megiddo collection, itself, is composed of furniture panels and rungs, cosmetic boxes, gameboards and pieces, combs, wands, pen cases, shallow bowls, kohl box lids, ointment spoons, decorated unguent horns (see example from Lachish Fosse Temple), and numerous fragments. Depictions of hunts, animal combat, animals at rest, feasts, processions, offerings, deities, and various palmette and rosette designs abound. The collection is useful far beyond documenting just the use of ivory in the Bronze Age and illustrates the cosmopolitan nature of this culture with its mixed Egyptian and Mesopotamian motifs.

Barnett, R.D. A Catalog of the Nimrud Ivories. 
     (London, 1957).
Liebowitz, H.A. "Bone and Ivory Inlay from Syria and Palestine,"            
     IEJ 22 (1977) 89-102.                                                
Loud, Gordon. The Megiddo Ivories. (Chicago, 1939).                  
Mazar, A. Excavations at Tel Qasile II. Qedem 20.
     (Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 10-14.

At Beth Shan and other sites, one finds the same types of objects made of ivory as in the Late Bronze Age: game boards, bowls, combs, toilet boxes, toilet box lids with rosette design, and furniture inlays.

IRON II:The ivories in the University of Pennsylvania Museum are excellent examples of Phoenician ivory inlays. Most known examples were uncovered at Nimrud, capital of the Assyrian kings, but a few can be cited from the area of Syro-Palestine. A dozen or so good pieces came to light in the excavations of Samaria and were found in debris dated to the destruction of the city in 722/721 (1 Kings 22:39, Amos 3:15, 6:4a). Other similar ivory examples from Arslan Tash in Syria bear close similarity to the contemporary examples from Samaria and Nimrud (ANEP, 782). An ivory fragment from Sarepta is one of the few examples of Phoenician ivories found in Phoenicia proper. Most ivories are small plaques that were inlays probably in furniture or wall panels, though ivory continues to be used for cosmetic spoons, boxes, and handles. Artistically the ivories mix Egyptian and Mesopotamian styles. Themes include animal combat, tree of life, woman gazing from windows and other female figures thought to be goddesses.

The eclectic art of the ivories mixes Egyptian and Mesopotamian motifs. For example, an Egyptian style head with the crown ofUpper and Lower Egypt is found on a Mesopotamian griffin. Other forms have an Egyptian feel to them (e.g, the lotus flowers), but are clearly not Egyptian pieces. Such blossoming lotus buds can be cited from other art and architecture designs (e.g. proto-Aeolic column form Megiddo). A final group of forms (e.g. lions) do not seem to fit into the artistic designs of Egypt or Mesopotamia. This mixture of Egyptian and Mesopotamian forms is thought to reflect a region where such eclectism is possible, thus the origin of the term Phoenician ivories.

Barnett. Catalogue of the Nimrud Ivories with 
	Other Examples of Ancient Near Eastern 
	Ivories in the British Museum. London, 1957.
Crowfoot, J.W. & Crowfoot, G.M. Samaria-Sebaste II: 

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.

Early Ivories from Samaria. London, 1938. Loud, G. The Megiddo Ivories. Chicago, 1939.


A short poem covering the agricultural calendar is dated on epigraphic design to the tenth century.

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.

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.

Royal stamp seals (ANEP 809 - Gibeon) 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.

Other inscriptions and marks:

Pritchard, James B. Hebrew Inscriptions and Stamps from
    Gibeon. (Philadelphia, 1959).
See also, above discussion of private seals.


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 occur less frequently. One finds a wide variety of other animals: pigs, horses, donkeys, oxen, camels, dogs, fallow deer, hippopotami, birds, fish, etc.

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 contexts 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 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.

Hellwing, Shlomo. "Human Exploitation of Animal Resources in the Early
     Iron Age Straaata at Tel Beer-Sheba." Beer-Sheba II. ed. by Ze'ev
     Herzog (Tel Aviv, 1984), pp.105-115.