Pot Periodization and the Davidic Kingdom

Pottery plays an important role in the field of archaeology, through the relative dating of artifacts, synchronizing archaeological layers and demonstrating technological and stylistic changes over time. Pottery too plays a role in the Bible.

Leviticus 15 deals with human discharges and the relevant laws of ritual purity. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When any man has an unusual bodily discharge, such a discharge is unclean. Whether it continues flowing from his body or is blocked, it will make him unclean. This is how his discharge will bring about uncleanness.” It then goes on to establish rules, including “ A clay pot that the man touches must be broken, and any wooden article is to be rinsed with water.”

A major debate amongst archaeologists is the length of time of the Iron IIA period, which carries implications for a United Monarchy led by kings David and Solomon. According to the High Chronology, the Iron IIA extended through much of the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, while proponents of the Low Chronology argue for the Iron IIA to have been concentrated mainly in the 9th BCE. The High Chronology allows for a powerful kingdom led by David and Solomon that ruled over the territories of Israel, while the Low Chronology does not.

Proponents of the High Chronology divide the Iron IIA itself by pottery styles. In the High Chronology’s nearly two-century scheme, pottery styles can be divided into early and late phases, with pottery styles evolving over time. A key change in pottery from the Iron I to Iron IIA period is the appearance of red-slipped hand-burnished ware, meaning the pottery was finished with a reddish dye and finished with a polish done by hand on not on a wheel. They note a gradual receding use of hand burnishing on certain vessels in the latter part of the Iron IIA. Similarly, they note changes in the styles of rims on cooking pots between the early Iron IIA and later Iron IIA.

The image above is of a red-burnished hand slipped vessel from Iron IIA Hazor.