Speculations on the fingerprint and lmlk potteries

Over 500 fingerprint-impressed jar handles have been found at Qeiyafa. The second most fingerprint impression-bearing site is Jokneam, with about 15 impressions (overtones of the northern lmlk handles, esp. at Nahal Tut). Overall, fingerprint-impressed jars appear to be found in the Coastal Plain and North (and Tel Beersheba and Beth-Zur). This provides some rather interesting parallels with the much later (~300 years later) lmlk impressions. Like in the case of the fingerprint impressions, most early lmlk impressions were concentrated at a single location in the Shephelah, and were made out of Shephelah clay. The Iron I fingerprint pottery and the Iron IIb lmlk pottery may have been at the same location. However, unlike in the case of the lmlk impressions, very few fingerprint impressions were found in the highlands (none seem to have been found at Gibeon and Jerusalem). So, who controlled the Qeiyafa polity? I suggest the likely candidates are:

1. The Kingdom of Beth-Zur

Beth-Zur was fortified in the Iron I and yielded one or more fingerprint-impressed jar handles. The kingdom ruled from it may be an illusion (i.e., an establishment of the Gibeonites or Jerusalemites) or an actual kingdom ruling over most of the Hebron hills destroyed by Judah or Gibeon (the Philistines are right out).

2. The Kingdom of Socoh or Adullam

-My gut reaction is to look to local explanations for Qeiyafa’s rise. They may be incorrect, but they haven’t been disproven.

3. The Kingdom of Gibeon

This is Finkelstein (and some maximalists)’s choice. He appears to believe believe Gibeon was a large, powerful kingdom ruled by the Saulide dynasty. I buy this. However, unless someone finds a fingerprint impression at Gibeon, I ain’t buying that Gibeon built Qeiyafa. It’s still a possibility.

4. The Kingdom of Jerusalem

-Almost every maximalist’s choice. As Jerusalem isn’t mentioned in Shoshenq I’s list, I ain’t buying it. I have not done thorough research on the Stepped Stone structure (evidence of the succession of the Late Bronze Kingdom of Jerusalem into Saulide times?), but Gibeon and Mahanaim appear far more prominent in Shoshenq’s list than Jerusalem.

In short, someone really needs to analyze the settlement system between the Hebron hills and southern Shephelah in Late Iron I.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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