Part of the Mystery Regarding Royal Shephelah Pottery Solved!

By looking at 1 Chronicles 4:23. The fact the royal potteries mentioned in the text are located just on the edges of the Elah valley (as the Tel Socoh website states regarding the petrographic origin of the lmlk jars!) makes it ever more likely Gederoth (Khirbet Judraya, 31°41’19″N, 34°59’46″E) and Netaim (Khirbet Nuweitih, 31°40’43″N, 34°56’26″E) were the true lmlk (or at least rosette) potteries (although I still suspect the actual lmlk pottery is at Achzib/Tell el-Beidah for the reasons mentioned below). The locating of these royal potteries in the Elah Valley also explains why some Persian tax jars were made in the Shephelah-the royal potters may have re-settled Gederah and Netaim during the First Return. However, placing the lmlk potteries in the Elah Valley poses problems for my locations of the lmlk impressions’ MMST in the Gedor/Halhul district (as the first MMST jars were made near Jerusalem) and the lmlk Socoh in the southern Hill Country. We must remember there are good reasons to thinking that the lmlk Socoh was the southern one. There is only one way to solve this conundrum-survey and/or excavate Tell el-Beida, Khirbet Nuweitih, and Khirbet Judraya!!!

The LMLK Map, Lapidarist Edition

Above: A map of Lapidarist lmlk impressions. Blue is Hebron, Orange is Ziph, Green is MMST, and Maroon are those with eroded inscriptions.

The concentration of Lapidarist lmlk impressions at Lachish as compared with any other city in Judah is simply staggering (248 at Lachish v. 16 at the next most Lapidarist lmlk impression-bearing site, Beth-Shemesh). Lachish is clearly the second capital of Judah in this period. The above map confirms my point that every piece of pottery at Ramat Rahel was brought there in the 7th C BC or later. The percentage of lmlk Hebron impressions seems to have slightly decreased at Lachish due to the rise of Socoh, but seems to have increased everywhere else. Socoh appears to have replaced Ziph in this phase. While I briefly thought to myself after seeing this map that have there might have been a redistricting of the southern Hill Country when the Socoh lmlk impressions were introduced, I found this to be unlikely due to the fact that in the Cursory phase, Ziph impression incidence seemed to be largest in southern Greater Benjamin and was rather modest at Lachish, while the situation with Socoh is, as one can see, quite different. I also have doubts whether Rabud/Debir (a fortified city of the Hill Country bearing only one M4L impression) was a part of the Socoh district before its destruction in 701 BC.

The distribution of MMSTs is extremely limited in this phase. Eleven M4Ls are known, five of them provenanced. While MMST distribution was already extremely limited during the Cursory phase, in this phase MMST impressions don’t even appear at Jerusalem, and the provenanced MMSTs were found in five major Judahite cities, each in separate areas of Judah (the southern Shephelah, middle Shephelah, Greater Benjamin, and the Hill Country). A probable M4L was also found (somewhat bizarrely) at Beitin, the probable site of the Israelite cult site of Bethel, just N. of of Judah. The distribution of the M4Ls is not just random; it seems to be almost deliberately atypical.

This map also helps demonstrate the likelihood of lmlk Socoh to be the southern Socoh, not the Elah Socoh. Let us take a look at the same map with labels:

Clearly, if lmlk Socoh was Elah Socoh, the Beth-Shemites would have had to have had a very strong distaste for Socoh products, while Azekah and Lachish would have had to have had a far less strong dislike of these same products. If lmlk Socoh was the southern Socoh, the small amount of Socohite products at Beth-Shemesh would simply be explained as a product of its distance from Socoh!

In other news, I experimented with making a jar-mark video (with maps), but it would have to be several minutes long for one to fully see the variance between the distributions of the different phases of jar-marks.

Best Candidate for MMST: Khirbet Abu et-Tuwein

Looking at this sourcebook, basing my search on my idea that MMST should probably be in the Halhul district of Judah, I narrowed my guesses for MMST to two sites: Khirbet el-Hubeila (site 835), 31°39’41″N, 35° 6’31″E, with its primary remains being from the Iron IIc and Byzantine periods, with some remains from the Iron IIb, Persian, Hellenistic, and Ottoman periods, and Khirbet abu et-Tuwein (site 830), a single period site with “IA2b fortress and dwelling structures”(!!!). Since Khirbet el-Hubeila was occupied during the Iron IIc, we should expect it to be listed in Joshua 15:59. Khirbet abu et-Tuwein (31°40’6″N, 35° 5’10″E), meanwhile, is the perfect candidate for MMST- a single period site, with a 45×30 m fortress (as from Google Earth) with surrounding “dwelling structures” dating to the Iron IIb (not later, nor earlier!), located in the Halhul district! And on my blog-o-versary, as well!

UPDATE: Apparently, the sourcebook did not tell the whole story. Firstly, the fortress is 31×30 m. Secondly, it was most probably destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Thirdly, it was not a single-period site, but was, rather, re-settled in the Persian period. Thirdly, it was not one of a kind, but, rather, there were three other such sites in the vicinity. So, is Khirbet abu et-Tuwein the best candidate for MMST? I’m leaning toward “no”.