Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Great Pool of Gibeon Resurfaces (via LMLK Handle Photos)

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent Sat 6/12/2004 7:33 AM.]

"At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night;
& God said, 'Ask! What shall I give you?'"--1Kings 3:5

Many months ago, I asked God to help me publish information about these handles that belong to a king, & by kind permission of the Photo Archives Department of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (UPMA), LMLK Dotcom is proud to announce the worldwide publication of photos of all 92 LMLK handles excavated from the Great Pool of Gibeon under the direction of James B. Pritchard from 1956 to 1957!

Thanks to curator Shannon White for providing access to the artifacts on May 14-16 of last year & thanks to Courtney Titus for being there on May 19.

Thanks to archivist Alex Pezatti for providing access to Pritchard's excavation notes on May 20.

Thanks to archivist Charles Stuart Kline for providing photos of the handles kept in Amman plus 2 that Pritchard reported as "lost" in his landmark 1959 reference publication, "Hebrew Inscriptions & Stamps from Gibeon".

Now, one year later, here is a link to the main page with summary data & thumbnail images of the stamps:

Note that each description contains an additional link to a page with detailed photos. In granting permission for me to publish these photos for 5 years (terminating on 11-1-2008), UPMA requested that I keep the resolution of the images below 500x375 pixels. Actually, a couple of years ago I limited the resolution on most of my detailed photos of unprovenanced handles to a maximum measurement of 480 pixels. I maintained that standard on these Gibeon photos & I only had to limit 2 of them in the other dimension to 375 pixels:

The standard I adopted for thumbnails back then was a maximum measurement for the smaller dimension of 200 pixels. Based on the new 1:1 template I produced in March, I'm probably going to scale all the thumbnails on the website down to their actual size, but I'm postponing that project due to my backlog of higher priorities. If you have a computer screen configuration like mine (16" viewable diagonal @ 1024x768), the detailed images of the overall handles will appear approximately 1:1 in size.

From that main Gibeon web page, you will also notice links to pages that provide a summary of pool depths for each identifiable LMLK stamp & a summary of incised Circle diameters:
I'm planning to publish details about all the handles with Circle marks (with & without LMLK stamps) in the next book volume I write.

The contents of these Gibeon pages represent slightly more than half the photos I took at UPMA. Since the LMLK Research Website will only be around as long as I am, the additional shots of the seal impressions using alternate lighting angles & full-resolution photos will eventually be compiled on a CD-ROM I'm developing so that you can click on spotlights as if you're in a virtual photo studio. The benefits from such a project are twofold: It allows researchers from all over the world to examine the handles without leaving the comfort of their home (assuming they have a comfortable home), & it reduces the handling of the handles thereby reducing the risk of wear/damage to them.

The main purpose of my visit was to take sufficient photos to allow me to identify the specific seal types in the hope of learning something new about the activities in ancient Gibeon compared to its neighbors, Mizpah & Gibeah, while refining my theory about the chronological division of LMLK seal types, which I published in my book this year; a secondary objective was to seek additional specimens of rare types just for the fun of it since that's what collectors like myself thrive on.

I accomplished both of my goals!

This G2T, with a well-executed Plus mark, was never published by Pritchard; Andy Vaughn discovered it at UPMA in the 1990s. The only other provenanced specimen of a Plus mark over a LMLK stamp was found at Lachish over an H4L in the 1970s (published by Ussishkin). Michael Welch owns an unprovenanced specimen of an oblique Plus mark over a Z2D. Were the contents of these jars designated as Heave offerings as suggested by Yigael Yadin in 1966?
Although I was not allowed to photograph the G2T with Drag Marks from Gibeah presently in Pittsburgh, I found this nearly identical specimen on an H2D at UPMA! Since the LMLK stamp is not a G2T, this indicates that the Drag Marks over the Circle marks were not necessarily a one-time, out-of-the-ordinary phenomenon.
The general feeling I had from examining this H2D stamp with a single, carefully-executed Drag Mark through it was that it was dragged before firing because it was not perfectly straight but seemed to be under the influence of moist clay. Did it have symbolic meaning like the Drag marks over the Circles or was it the product of mishandling when it was placed in the kiln?
Pritchard was the first person to publish an H2T stamp (Lemaire's H IIc) even though one was excavated at Mizpah a few decades earlier, but his photo lacked important detail & was oriented awkwardly. Since this is the best-known example of an ultra-rare type, here's a much better photo! Now we can see all of the Het in relation to the other 3 letters. We are left wondering only what the top of the Nun looked like; so far based on 4 published stamps, it actually resembled the Fay at the end of the ZYF stamps!
Compare these M2D stamps for Field #s 499 & 520; you'll have to do a double-take since the person who stamped them shifted the seal each time giving the illusion of a gap between the Shin & Tau!
Pritchard's publication listed two handles with Circles & 4-winged icons; one was described as Class II (Field #491), the other was described as I or II (Field # 354). The only other 4-winged handle with Circles found so far was dug in Jerusalem (published in "Jewish Quarter Excavations" [JQE] by Barkay et al). In Pritchard's notes for 354, he wrote: "? Flying Scarab"; however, I see nothing on 354 to convince me it's 2- or 4-winged so I've classified it as "xxx":
Here's another handle I was not able to classify as x2x or x4x, even though Pritchard published it as Class III (i.e., Diringer's all-inclusive 2-winged seals). The person who stamped it basically stabbed it into the clay on an angle & didn't notice that none of the icon & none of the inscription had been impressed. So far in my research, Gibeon 354 & 418 are the only 2 stamps I've not been able to classify even by icon!
In his dissertation, Andy Vaughn described Field # 825 (unpublished by Pritchard) as a 4-winged icon with circles. You can clearly see the icon, but I was not able to find any evidence of circles. If they do exist, they are very faint & not in the usual place between the oval & the jar at the top of the handle. The only things I saw on it were craters & illusions created by shadows.
Here's a relatively new phenomenon that I noted in my book--the center of the 2-winged icon was drilled out for some strange reason in a manner similar to the anchor dot of Circle marks, yet there were no Circles attempted on this handle. Again, see JQE for a similar specimen (5761-1) noted by Barkay.
Here's another curious thing I've noticed on a few fragmented handles--a small portion in the center was hollow, typically 1/4"-1/2" deep & equally wide. In my book I speculate that some potters may have formed LMLK handles by folding flat clay around a perishable organic material that disintegrated in the kiln, or maybe an air pocket remained in the clay that was folded but not thoroughly squeezed.

Pithoi: A total of 4 ***rare*** pithoi handles with LMLK stamps were excavated from Gibeon. At the time, Pritchard was unaware of the distinction between these & Type 484s even though a few had been excavated at Mizpah & Lachish (but not distinguished by McCown or Tufnell), so now is a good time to set the record straight on which 4 he found:
Field # 1451 contains a stamp that is unclassifiable beyond x4C (Lemaire's Ia; Diringer's Class I). Its locus was not recorded.
Field # 515 contains an unaccepted-by-Lemaire Z4CY stamp (Lapp/Aharoni's type i Zb). This stamp matches a pithos from nearby Mizpah, an unprovenanced pithos in my Redondo Beach collection, & the famous Beersheba pithos. Michael Welch owns an interesting-but-unprovenanced specimen of this stamp on a Type 484 handle.
Here's the famous M4C (Lemaire's M Ia), which is on permanent display at UPMA so I was not able to scrutinize the stamp using shadowing techniques. Nonetheless, I discovered that what I was led to believe was the head of the scarab from Pritchard's black & white photo actually turned out to be a large white grit that prevented the seal from leaving a complete impression.
This is a pithos handle with an x4L (Lemaire's Ib), although I've been able to determine by scrutinizing it with my templates that it could not have been either of the 2 common types--the H4L or S4L--or the rare Z4L. The preserved portion matches the rare M4L perfectly, so barring any adjustments to my templates in the future as new specimens are published, I've identified this as an M4L. If the chronological division I suggested in my book holds up over time (pun intended), this opens the door for the possibility of one day finding pithoi with 2-winged (specifically, x2U) stamps as well. Another interesting feature of this handle is its whitewash--it's definitely not the white patina/efflorescence normally seen in patches on LMLK handles. The normal patina usually wraps around over the broken portions of the handle & onto the internal jar side. I speculated in my book that this unusual jar with a rare seal type might have been produced for a VIP such as the High Priest. How I would love to spend time searching through the debris from the excavations to find one or more matching handles & pottery fragments from this special jar!
Here is a photo that finally proves the M4L (Lemaire's M Ib) had "naturalistic" detail of elytra in the center of the icon like x4C types (Lemaire's Ia & Diringer's Class I). Pritchard misclassified 335 as Class I leading all of us to believe it was like the famous Field # 523--possibly even its mate. The icon's head in this photo may also exhibit previously unknown detail--clypei--although this might just be a coincidence similar to the deep line in the left forewing.

As I was getting ready to leave the UPMA basement, I couldn't help but notice all the famous handles inscribed "GBON" in a tray. Having only seen black & white photos of them in books, what stood out was their reddish/pinkish colors & texturing. Their fabric/ware matches the LMLK pithoi handles! Bear in mind that the famous report on provenience from IEJ vol. 34 states that no samples from el-Jib were used, & it is quite possible that Jerusalem's Motza clay could have been used to manufacture the pithoi & GBON jars at nearby Gibeon (or maybe the jars were made/inscribed in Jerusalem & sent to Gibeon for filling). I'm hoping that one of the 2-dozen professors on the distribution of this E-mail will petition a chemical analysis on one or more of these special handles & compare them to the provenanced pithoi from Gibeon, Mizpah, Jerusalem, Lachish, & Beersheba.
Another curiosity is Field # 413, which may be a 22nd seal similar to the controversial Mizpah stamp "AB16x, I, X67"; both appear to have unique wings with the letter Shin above & below the right wing. This Gibeon stamp may preserve a Vau next to the Shin below the wing. Then again, they may just be illusions due to a sloppy stamp-job.

In addition to the controversial Field # 146 on permanent display at UPMA, I identified 2 other (Field #s 532 & 541) unaccepted-by-Lemaire examples of the rare S2DR seal (Welten's type S IIA 2).

I identified 3 unrecognized-by-Pritchard examples of the rare Z2T seal (Lemaire's type Z IIc). It is highly probable that Field #s 481 & 501 are from the same jar since they have identical ware types, identical smoothing & grits, & were found at about the same depth of the pool. Field # 79 looks similar on the outside, but the jar-side ware is very different (i.e., non-colored) & it was found at a much shallower depth of the pool. I'm fascinated by how all 3 stamps resulted in the same remnant of the Fay stroke resembling the chip on the shoulder of the G2T stamp. We cannot fault Pritchard for not reading this ZP inscription--the simplest & shortest of all LMLK seal inscriptions, & it leaves us wondering how the ancient inhabitants of Gibeon interpreted it. Did it really represent a place named Ziph as opposed to a votive?
The importance of being allowed to examine these handles bears fruit in using the 1:1 template I published with my book as a confirmation tool. Observe Field # 353, which is completely missing its inscription, but the icon--a pudgy x4L scarab--matches only the S4L design. This characteristic makes the S4L stamps identifiable even without my template sometimes since every time I see one, I immediately think of the American bakery icon, the Poppin' Fresh doughboy, who giggles uncontrollably when you poke him in his tummy:

Two final, important photos I want to share with you. In 1959, Prichard published the Gibeon handles & described them as being either at Philadelphia or Amman except for these 2, which he described as being "lost"--now, 4 decades later, I was thrilled to discover that he indeed took photos of them in the Holy Land so we could confirm the LMLK stamp type on at least one of them:
Another important aspect of working with a refined template is that I'm able to scale the photos on my computer screen & make measurements of other features such as Circle marks, as I was able to do for Field # 318 even though this handle is lost.


During the course of this effort pertaining to the handles with LMLK stamps, I noticed 2 significant errors in Table 31 of my book, LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol.1.

On page 341 I listed a handle with only a Personal stamp, ID# 524, at a Depth of 10.7-11.8 meters. Actually, ID# 524 was found at 9.0-9.8m & belongs up above ID# 525 in the table. Another Personal handle found at 10.7-11.8m is ID# 554. This error hurt my ego more than the overall data. The impact to Figure 62 on page 342 is minor in that it extends the gray bar for Depth Key 9 to a quantity of 5; the Datum statement under the figure remains the same.

Also near the bottom of the Pool table on page 341, I listed ID# "530, S.530, 60-13-127", which is wrong; it should be "530, S.217, 60-13-127". As Homer Simpson would say: "D'oh!!!"

On a positive note, I confirmed that the handles with Circle marks from unrecorded depths, ID#s 107, 108, 112, 119, 120, & 215, were indeed excavated during 1956 prior to the others listed in Table 31 below them, which were all dug up in 1957 or later. "Woo-Hoo!!!"

QUESTIONS that professors can pose to their students:

Why would the later citizens of Gibeon fill the pool with dirt & debris when their ancestors went through such great effort to construct this ancient engineering marvel?

What is the significance of the bottom half of the pool being filled mostly with dirt while the top half contained numerous artifacts, & furthermore, what is the significance of the GBON handles being found in the upper quarter? (Hints: Geographic as suggested by Pritchard, or chronological as suggested by Lapp?)

If all LMLK seals were made & used exclusively during a brief period prior to the Assyrian invasion, why were at least 16 LMLK seal types found at Gibeon & 18 at Mizpah, yet only 4 at Gibeah between them & Jerusalem? (Hint: Compare the 4 Gibeah types with the 7 types found under the Assyrian destruction layer at Lachish.)

If the correct interpretation of the LMLK inscriptions lies in a geographical origin for wine, why would the managers/officials of the vineyards be so careless when making these impressions on some occasions & so careful on others, & furthermore, what happened when the jars reached their destination & somebody tried to distinguish between jars with illegible stamps? (Compare Field #s 454 & 487 to 354 & 418.)

If the correct interpretation of the LMLK inscriptions lies in a votive formula known to all the citizens, would recipients at the destination need to read every stamped handle? (Refer to 2Chronicles 31)

If you made it all the way down to this sentence, thank you for your attention! I expect similar milestones this summer for the handles from Beth Shemesh, Beth Zur, & the unprovenanced collection at the Museum of Archaeology & Biblical History in New Mexico. My small contribution to the human heritage.

"Then Joshua spoke to the LORD... & he said in the sight of Israel:
'Sun, stand still over Gibeon...'"--Joshua 10:12

G.M. Grena

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