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!!!

No One Knows When the Ten lmlk Handles Found at Elah Socoh Will Be Published

A few days ago, I emailed Julia Fridman as thus:

According to the Tel Sochoh website, a survey was conducted at the Tel in 2011, the results of which were, among other finds, ten lmlk handles and six other stamped handles. As an American layperson who is quite interested in the history of the lmlk phenomenon, the complete publication of these finds is of great importance to me. Thus, my first question to you is, when, exactly, will photographs of all these stamped handles be published? My other question to you is why is the emblem of the Tel Sochoh website Lemaire’s type S Ib (Grena’s Type S4L), even though the only lmlk Socoh handle found in the survey is a two-winged handle?

Her response:

Thank you for the interest you have shown in our work, I am unable to tell you when exactly the handles we discovered on the survey will be published as that is up to our surveyor Yoav Tzur. We hope in the near future. As far as the Sochoh image we used on the website, it does not matter which one it is as the project is about the production of all jars with lmlk stamps found on them. We used it because we prefer the design, and because it has the name of Sochoh written on it. That is all, no deeper meaning.

We hope to add more interesting finds after our first season will commence and publish them as promptly as we are able.

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.

Why Did Hezekiah Not Feel a Threat to the South From Sennacherib

Hezekiah concentrated his defense outside Jerusalem on two sides: the passes to Jerusalem, especially those near the border of Samaria (Gibeon+Mizpah), and the three (four?) fortified cities in the Shephelah (Beth-Shemesh, Lachish, and Azekah, and possibly Socoh). He did not concentrate his defense on the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because Sennacherib had a purpose for taking over Gibeon, Mizpah, and the Shephelah. He did not, however have any clear purpose for taking over the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because the Shephelah made Judah far too politically influential in Philistia for Assyria to allow, and, more importantly, it could be administered by Ashdod and Gaza. Mizpah and Gibeon could be used to stop trade coming to Judah from the Assyrian provinces in the North or be used as springboards to take over the southern part of the province of Samaria. Both could also be administered as unfortified cities within Samaria. The Beersheba Valley, meanwhile, was a vital trade artery, offered very little threat of political influence in Edom or Gaza, and could not be competently administered by any polity except Judah. Exiling the population of the Beersheba Valley would, as Hezekiah likely reasoned, be the last part of Judah Sennacherib would want to attack.

Of course, the Assyrians did end up destroying the Beersheba Valley, probably as a make-work project for Judah, to keep it from growing too strong again any time soon.