Focus of Study: Cultural and Everyday Life

Focus of Study: Cultural and Everyday Life

Option C: Focus of Study- Culture and everyday life, including:

Art and Architecture

Israelite Architecture:

Israelite architecture can be characterized by large, ashlar constructed administrative buildings, such as the ones found in Megiddo and Samaria. (Sharon and Zarzecki-Peleg 2006: 147-156).

Samarian Ivories:

The Samaria ivories were found during excavation scattered in the area of the Israelite Palace in Samaria. They consist of hundreds of pieces of wall and furniture decoration. The ivories date to the days when Samaria was the capital of Israel, in the ninth or eighth century BC. The motifs represented on the ivories include animals, humans, Egyptian deities, lotus and palms and other symbols. They share a common artistic background with similar collections from an Assyrian Palace at Nimrud and from Arslan Tash in northern Syria. (Tappy 2001: 491-495; Muller 1939: 705-706)

Proto Aeolic Capitals:

Capitals are an architectural term usually referring to decorative supports on top of columns. Proto-Aeolic capitals (aka. volute capitals) are decorated with curving date palm tree motifs, associated with the Near Eastern “Tree of Life”. They are among the most impressive and special finds discovered in archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan. The size of the capitals, their weight, the quality of their carving and their impressive design provide an indication of their function in the gates and palaces of the ancient kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Moab, and Ammon.

Stone capitals decorated with a Proto-Aeolic design are known from the main cities of the Kingdom of Israel: Samaria, Megiddo, Hazor, Dan and Mount Gerizim. They date to the 9th century BC. Later examples (8th-7th centuries BC) are known from the Kingdom of Judah: most of them from the remains of the palace at Ramat Rahel and one from the City of David excavations in Jerusalem. Six capitals and a few fragments of capitals are also known from various sites in Jordan.

Some scholars claim Proto-Aeolic capitals are an original architectural feature that evolved in ancient Israel during the time of the Omride dynasty. This was a unique architectural phenomenon with no known parallels from that time in the entire region. According to this view, the Assyrian relief from the palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh, which shows a structure with Proto-Aeolic capitals, indicates that the Assyrians adopted this architectural element from the Israelites. (Image: Lipschits 2011: 208)

Sources Description

I. Sharon and A. Zarzecki-Peleg (2006), "Podium Structures with Lateral Access: Authority Ploys in Royal Architecture in the Iron Age Levant", in  S. Gitin (eds.) Confronting the Past: Archaeological and Historical Essays on Ancient Israel in Honor of William G. Dever, pp.147-156.

pp.147-151: Definition of the typical Israelite administrative building and its architectural elements.

pp.151-156: Case studies of typical Israelite buildings in Megiddo, Hazor, Dan, Samaria and Jezreel.

R.E. Tappy (2001), The Archaeology of Israelite Samaria vol.2: The Eight Century BCE, pp.491-495.

On the provenance of the Samaria Ivories and the problem of their dating.

V. Muller (1939), "Review: Early Ivories from Samaria, Samaria-Sebaste. Reports of the Work of the Joint Expedition in 1931-1933 and of the British Expedition in 1935, No. 2 by J. D. Crowfoot; Grace M. Crowfoot.", American Journal of Archaeology vol.43, no.4, pp.705-706.

A brief overview of the Samaria Ivories and a summary of Crowfoot’s publication about the ivories.

O. Lipschits (2011), "The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant", in I. Finkelstein and N. Na├íman (eds.) The Fire Signals of Lachish. Studies in honor of David Ussishkin, pp.203-225.

p.208 - image included above

D. Ein Mor (2013), "Walajeh (Ain Joweizeh)", Hadashot Arkheologiyot: Excavations and Surveys in Israel, vol 125. Israel Antiquities Authority <>

On the recent discovery of a Proto-Aeolic captial during excavations near Jerusalem

Writing and Literature

Samaria Ostraca:

Over a hundred inscribed potsherds were found during the excavations in Samaria. They were administrative notations of shipments, of wine or oil, that had been sent in to various officials from their estates. All of the sherds have been discarded and were found under in a fill under the “Ostraca House”. All the texts on the sherds start with the regnal year and list the recipient of the shipment. Some of the ostraca then list the type of commodity sent, different types of oil and wine, while other ostraca ignore the type of commodity, but name the sender. The ostraca refer to names of places and regions around the capital, from which the commodities originated. They are dated according to paleographical considerations to the early eighth century BCE. They attest to a large-scale oil and wine industry at that time.


Finkelstein (2013), The Forgotten Kingdom: the archaeology and history of northern Israel, p.132.


Rainey and Notley (2014), The Sacred Bridge, pp.221-222


Leisure Activities

Game boards and game pieces are found from all over the ancient world, indicating that games were always a part of daily life. Games were made from various materials, including clay, stone, bone and ivory. Games were common through all social classes; ordinary people as well as the elite. Luxurious game sets were perhaps even used as status symbols, while others might have had religious significance.

Music was also part of the leisure activities, as indicated by the many biblical references, but also by iconographic and archaeological evidence, such as the depiction of instruments on seals, in figurines of female drummers and the depiction of a procession of players from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud. Music played a significant role in a variety of situations from cultic activities, victory celebrations, secular celebrations and even mourning.

Source Description

J. Braun (2002), Music in Ancient Israel/Palestine: Archaeological, Written and Comparative Studies.

Find it here through google books.

pp.115-118: On the role and characteristics of music in ancient Israel.

pp.151-153: On the drawing of the players’ procession from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud.

News article:
N. Weiner (2013), "Ancient Board Games: A Playful look at Ancient Israel", Bible History Daily 02/11/2013
Evidence of board games from Ancient Israel as discovered through archaeological excavations.
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