Shephelah Clay

Shephelah clay was used in the production of the Early Persian lion stamp-impressed jars (Lipschits, p. 63, see here for distribution map). Shephelah clay only occurs in the three Shephelah districts of Joshua 15. The Early Persian province of Yehud’s border with the provinces of Ashdod and the Idumean wilderness seems to have extended in a rough line from Aijalon to Keilah. Since the Persian administrative center in Yehud was at Ramat Rahel, it makes sense to place the location of the gathering of the lion-impressed jar clay between Adullam and Eshtaol, possibly at Zanoah, Socoh, or, somewhat less likely, Eshtaol. Shephelah clay was also apparently used to make post-701 BC lmlk-stamped jars, even though the Shephelah was devastated by Sennacherib’s campaign. My question is, why is Shephelah clay used for the production of Judahite stamped jars even in periods the Shephelah is not an important part of Judah, such as the early Persian period and the early 7th C BC?

Concentric Circles on Sennacherib’s Clothing

Being inspired by George Grena’s out-of-context picture of concentric circles of Sennacherib’s clothes on his “Theories” page, I decided to take a few of my own images of these circles using the BBC’s version of the Lachish relief (the most detailed version I have found on the web so far!).


Adjusted for best view:

Best Grayscale image of the above picture:

The above images indicate that concentric circles (which are found incised into late 8th and early 7th C BC Judahite jar handles, in almost all cases after the jar’s firing, and in probably all cases in the early-mid 7th century BC) were used a royal motif. Since they fit in modestly well with the Judahite government’s long-standing (at least 20-year old) tradition of using solar imagery on jar handles and roughly half of concentric circle marks are found on lmlk-impressed handles, though lmlk handles make up only a tenth of Iron IIB handles, it seems likely that these concentric circle marks were the Manassite Judahite government’s way to continue the old lmlk system without making new jars.  Other theories should be discounted; the distribution of these handles do not correspond at all to the list of Levitical cities (except for Gibeon) for the limited chronological distribution of these marks argues against any broad non-governmental purpose (e.g. marking old wine or the inaccuracy of a fired jar). The concentric circle marks are likely not cancellation marks of any sort, as they are found on non-stamped lmlk-type handles. Rather, the abundance of these marks at Ramat Rahel/Beth-Haccerem, the Assyrian governor’s residence for Judah (64 out of 317) shows that they were likely used as tax jars.

Oded Lipschits Proposes King’s Garden to Be in Rephaim Valley

See here. He and Nadav Na’aman also propose Ramat Rahel to have formerly been Ba’al Perazim. I do not have any ideas of how they reconcile Nehemiah 3:15 with their hypothesis, but linking the Valley of the King with the Rephaim valley is surely an attractive proposal.

The Mwsh/Lion/Early Yhwd Map!

Above: A map of Early Yhwd, Lion, and Mwsh impressions. Blue=Mwsh Impressions, Orange=Lion Stamp Impressions, Yellow=Early Yhwd Impressions. The anachronistic political boundaries are c. 705-701 BC.

For the corpus of mwsh seal impressions, see here.

For En Gedi’s lions, see here.

For the Rogem Ganim data, see here.

For Mizpah’s five lions, see here.

For a corpus of lion impressions, see here and here.

For Gibeon’s two lions, see here.

For Jericho’s lion, see here.

For a mostly complete corpus of Early Yhwds, see here.

For more early Yhwd data, see here.

WARNING: There might be more jar-marks at Mozah. Khirbet er-Ras’ impressions are not included here.

For the same map with outline of Seleucid Yehud, see below (ignore the outlines of the 8th C BC Philistine kingdoms):

Note that most of these pre-4th C BC impressions seem to be concentrated in the North and East of the province. I will likely soon do a map comparing Early to Middle and possibly Late Yhwd Impression prevalence. Also, it is now obvious to me that the Lion Impressions are Persian period (before Ezra-Nehemiah??)- did the the Babylonians manage to completely alter Judah’s settlement system in less than a half-century, re-founding En Gedi, Ramat Rahel, Rogem Ganim (?), Jerusalem (!!!) and Nebi Samwil while making Mizpah a secondary administrative center and producing more of their lion stamp impressions in some 47 years than the Persians managed to produce in over 130?

Ramat Rahel=Beth-Haccerem

Let us first start with the Byzantine evidence: Jerome mentions a “Bethacharma” located on a height between Tekoa and Jerusalem when commenting on Jeremiah 6:1, which mentions Beth-Haccerem as a place to send fire-signals from. En Kerem is visible neither from Jerusalem nor Ramat Rahel, nor does it seem to have significant Iron Age II remains. If En Kerem was Beth-Haccerem, smoke would have to rise 700 feet to be visible from Jerusalem. Indeed, the above evidence was precicely why early explorers of Palestine sometimes identified Beth-Haccerem with Herodium! Ramat Rahel, meanwhile, is both on a height (‘Ramat’), is between Tekoa and Jerusalem, is visible from both sites, and was inhabited in the Byzanine period (Stratum II). Thus, it is safe to say Ramat Rahel is Beth Haccerem (“Vineyard-House”), fitting due to it being an Assyrian-built collection center for the produce of Judah’s vineyards.

A Fortified Storehouse During the Hezekian Revolt?

Ramat Rahel Vb was an isolated early 7th century BC storehouse near Jerusalem fortified with a casemate wall and filled with lmlk and concentric circle jars. Its being filled with lmlk jars would make it useless during the Hezekian revolt, and, indeed, counterproductive, since it was not connected to any settlement, if full, and would simply be used as a supply station for Sennacherib’s hosts. Thus, any store-jars found at Ramat Rahel must date to after 701 BC. Since there is no point in independently moving hundreds of store-jars from a capital city to a fortified storehouse just outside the capital (or even building such a storehouse in the first place), it only makes sense Ramat Rahel Vb was built by Hezekiah under duress of Sennacherib to house the new Assyrian governor of Judah. Old lmlk jars in Jerusalem were re-used and transported to Ramat Rahel to feed the local governor and his troops. Thus, the similarity of the lmlk type profiles of Jerusalem and Ramat Rahel. The conclusions expressed above were already expressed by Oded Lipschits and his students a few years before.

“The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” and the Date of the Rosette Jar-Marks

The “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” was a concept developed in the late 1980s which, in effect, argues for a revival of Judah in the E. and S. largely due to Manasseh’s integration of Judah into the New Assyrian Order, even though the Shephelah never fully regained its population until the Hasmonean era. Thus, Tel Goren (ancient En Gedi) Str. V, Tel ‘Ira VII, Tel ‘Aroer III, and the Wilderness district sites in Judah (Tabaq, Samrah, Maqari, Feshkha, Qumran, Ghuweir) would all begin in the early to mid-7th C BC, in the days of King Manasseh (697-643 BC). The Arabian trade and Shephelah refugees are important components in this historical reconstruction. The rebuilding of Azekah and Lachish in the Shephelah is also an important part of the “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh”. My placement of the Rosette jar-marks in the Assyrian, rather than, as Oded Lipschits does, post-Assyrian period, is sufficient, though not necessary, evidence for the acceptance of this Manassite paradigm.

The evidence for the Manassite paradigm from the finds in the Negev is rather clear: while two lmlk handles were found in Stratum VIII of Arad (destroyed in 701 BC), three were found in Stratum VII. Thus, Arad VII was built in the early 7th C BC, when lmlk jars were still in use. Likewise, four late (“Divided Inscription”) lmlk handles were found at Lachish, thus suggesting it was built some years before (though certainly not too long before!) lmlk jar use ended. Lipschits’s suggestion that Josiah built the Ramat Rahel Va citadel/palace is simply bizarre: why build a 70×47 meter citadel two miles (just within viewing distance) outside the capital and use it as a storehouse when your capital is already fortified and has a great royal palace and storehouses already in use? Na’aman’s interpretation of Ramat Rahel Va as an Assyrian Governor’s Residence is far more plausible. In general, the situation with the Rosette marks is much better placed in the Assyrian than Josianic period. Since the Rosette system is inherently connected with the beginning of Ramat Rahel Va (which probably represents a new phase of Assyrian administration in Judah), and it is likely the preceding Ramat Rahel Vb was also an Assyrian residence (if it was built before 701 BC, it would certainly be emptied by the time Sennacherib began his Shephelah operations) we may suppose Ramat Rahel Va, Lachish II, and Iron IIc Azekah were built either in the reign of Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal. While the latter two may have been built later than the establishment of Ramat Rahel Va and the Rosette system due to the fortification system at Lachish being such an integral part of its administration and the modest amount of Rosette impressions there compared to Jerusalem and Ramat Rahel, a date in the reign of Ashurbanipal or Esarhaddon is still likely, and the fortification system(s?), paralleled by that of Ekron, might have been considered necessary by the Assyrians to defend Palestine against Egypt.

Thus, it seems likely that Judah already revived to almost its Josianic state by the time of Amon.