Year 12 HSC Ancient History

Year 12 HSC Ancient History

An integrated Ancient Near East Option

Programming Ancient History

Programming HSC Ancient History

Scope and Sequence

HSC Ancient Societies: Ancient Israel

Option C: Society in Israel from Solomon to the Fall of Samaria (c.970-722 BCE)


Geographical Setting

Israel and Judah Kingdoms of Ancient Israel and Judah c.830 BC

Iron Age Ancient Israel

Kingdoms of Ancient Israel and Judah during the Iron Age, with significant sites highlighted. 
I. Finkelstein (2007), The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, p.x

Significant sites


Samaria served as the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel from the rule of Omri (c.875 BC) to the destruction of the kingdom (722BC). 

The site was excavated by Reisner and Fisher in 1908-1910 and by Crowfoot in 1931-1935. A royal complex was unearthed on the summit of the hill. Alongside the acropolis there was also a large lower city. It is disputed whether the royal complex stood in the heart of a large city from its first stage of construction, or whether ninth-century Samaria encompassed only the royal compound and the site expanded beyond the summit only in the first half of the eighth century. 

The royal complex, constructed during the ninth century BC, includes the palace, storerooms and administrative structures, as well as a casemate wall surrounding the compound. The archaeological remains attest to Samaria’s role as the capital of the kingdom: Monumental stone buildings were uncovered. The part of the palace that was exposed is ca. 55x40m in size. It is one of the largest Iron Age buildings known in the Levant. It was surrounded by several auxiliary buildings of an administrative nature. The architecture is similar to that found in Jezreel, and in two sites in Moab – all built by the Omrides.

The artefacts also attest to the unique nature of the site: In one building, ivory carvings were found. In another building the "Samaria Ostraca" were found. These ostraca indicate that a large amount of produce was concentrated in the site.

The city was captured and destroyed by the Assyrians in 722-720 BCE.


A. Faust (2012). The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II, p.46.

A brief summary of the role and architecture of Iron Age Samaria.

I. Finkelstein (2013). The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel, pp. 87-94.

New thoughts on the architectural elements of Iron Age Samaria.

Hebrew Bible: 1 Kings 16: 23-24

The establishment of a new capital in Samaria.

Hebrew Bible: 2 Kings 17: 1-6

The destruction of Samaria.
Tirzah (Tell el-Far'ah)

Tirzah served as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel for a period of 40-50 years (circa 920-880 BCE). The biblical town is identified with Tel el-Fra’ah, located in the northern highlands, in a fertile valley near two springs. This was the capital of Israel before Samaria was built by the Omrides. This makes it a crucial place for the study of the early days of the kingdom. 

The site was excavated by De Vaux between 1946-1960. According to Finkelstein, it dates to the second half of the 10th century and the early 9th century BCE. The archaeological evidence from this time is sparse as it was apparently a small unfortified settlement. The settlement of the next period was denser and better planned.

Tirzah must have been chosen to serve as the capital due to its advantageous environment and its location on the main road to the Jordan Valley. However, so far, no signs of public architecture from the phase when Tirzah was the capital have been unearthed. On the other hand, a large number of seals have been discovered from this period, indicating the possible existence of a bureaucratic apparatus.

This could speak to the nature of the kingdom itself at this point: a territorial entity, ruled from a humble settlement, which nevertheless was strong enough to expand and rule territory in the Jezreel Valley. Tirzah lost its importance in the early ninth century BCE, when Omri (884-873 BCE) moved the capital to Samaria.

I. Finkelstein, (2013). The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel, pp.63-82.An overview of the archaeology of Tirzah, and the background on the Kingdom of Israel in its early days, when it was controlled from Tirzah.
A. Chambon (1993), "Far'ah, Tell-el- (North)", in New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, p.433 and 439-440.Identification and history of the site and description of the finds of the different periods.
Hebrew Bible: Joshua 12:24Joshua captures the city of Tizrah.
Hebrew Bible: 2 Kings 17:9-10Omri besieged Tizrah.

Focus of Study

Social structure and political organisation


Religion, death and burial

Culture and everyday life

HSC Personalities in Their Times: Sennacherib

Option C: Sennacherib

Scope and Sequence


Geography, topography and resources of the Assyrian Empire

Who's Who?

Relations with neighbours

Destruction of Babylon

Organisation of Empire


Annals of Sennacherib

Death of Sennacherib

Political, military, economic and social structure of Assyrian empire

Julian Reade explores the question: Was Sennacherib a Feminist?

Assyrian and Babylonian religions

Focus of Study: 

Background and rise to prominence

Key features and developments of reign

The siege of Lachish

Nineveh Reliefs

Evaluation of reign

Source Study

HSC Historical Period: First Temple Period

Option C: The Ancient Levant - First Temple Period c. 970-586 BCE

Scope and Sequence



Geographical context

Key powers and contact

Focus of Study

Israel and Judah

Geopolitics of the Ancient Levant
Population trade and settlement
Reign of Solomon
The divided kingdom 931-722 BCE

Foreign relations with Assyria and Babylon

Northern kingdom of Israel in the 10th century BCE 
Assyrian conquest of Israel 722 BCE
Assyrian campaign against Judah 701 BCE

Sourcebook: Sennacherib in Judah

Sennacherib in Judah

Judah as a client-state of Assyria
Relations with the Babylonian Empire
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