Sunday, January 08, 2012

LMLK Credit, Robert Deutsch Edition

Back in 2005, I found an online check-printing company that allows customers to design their own checks. You can make a single design, or buy a single checkbook with 4 designs. It wouldn't take a great imagination to know which 4 images I chose:

Late last year, the credit union that issues my credit cards also began offering a design-your-own feature, amazingly at no extra cost. Since I own 2 credit cards, I decided to use 2 different designs:

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I began building the LMLK Research Website, & some credit is certainly due for posterity's sake. One of my blogging goals this year will be to highlight some of the wonderful people who have in some way helped, inspired, assisted me with the content over the years.

First & foremost, I'll feature epigraphy expert & antiquities dealer, Robert Deutsch. Here's a couple of sentences from p. 13 of my LMLK v1 book:

"As I awaited the arrival of [Vaughn's "Chronicler"] book from Amazon Dotcom, I discovered a website for archaeologist/scholar, Robert Deutsch. This began a tremendously fruitful correspondence & he essentially mentored me as I got deeper into this field."

Though I didn't have space to elaborate in the book, the first time I wrote to him was March 3, 2000:

"Hi! I'm a private collector & recently acquired a LMLK handle. The upper right portion is missing, but the lower left portion shows "SCH". I've noticed your name attached to scholarly articles about these items & I'm wondering if you can recommend a publication in particular that would contain either a photograph or a sketch of a complete "SCH" variety of the LMLK handle. I saw the review of your new book in the latest issue of BAR; does it contain any illustrations of the "SCH" handles? Thanks for your help!"

His reply came in only 25 minutes!!! As I soon learned, this was highly unusual, especially among museum curators & other scholars:

"Hi (name). Your interest in lmlk handles is my interest. A good book which contains ancient inscriptions is: Ancient Inscriptions, Voices from the Biblical World by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. On page 143 you will find the drawings of two handles: lmlk mmst and lmlk hbrn yours is similar. As also, I hold two auctions of antiquities every year at Passover and Sucoth. The next one will be held on 23 April 2000 in Tel Aviv. If you like a free catalog let me have your address and phone/fax. Sincerely Robert"

He eventually sold many handles to me, including the 5 most famous ones in my collection, which I now consider to be priceless:

#4, the nearly perfect S4L, which provided the flawless "LMLK" used on my book's cover, checks, & Visa card.

#16, an extremely rare member of the highly prized pithos family of jar types, completely distinct from the Type 484 class. Furthermore, it bears an impression from the extremely rare Z4CY seal.

#21, the nearly perfect double-stamped M4L, used for a promo ad in BAR vol. 30 #1, the Wikipedia entry for MMST, the MMST on the cover of my book, & now my checks & MasterCard, or maybe I should now say MMSTercard!

#22, the nearly perfect H2D, impressed upon a special lump of clay added to the leather-hard handle to facilitate the royal seal (described for the first time by Vaughn in his aforementioned book). Aside from accompanying the Wikipedia entry for "LMLK seal", I used it on the title page of my Winter 2005 Bible and Spade article, & it also appears on p. 11 of The Archaeology Book by David Down (first printing February 2010).

#27, an extremely rare member of the highly prized "LMLK"-less LMLK set, this nearly perfect specimen belonging to the Z2T family.

Three more honorable mentions:

#18, the S2DW used for SUKE on my book cover, checks, & MasterCard. It's completely missing the Kaf due to the handle's ridge, but it's an overall excellent specimen preserving portions of all 7 other letters, as well as the entire icon's outline, plus the characteristic incision extending from the bottom-left of the icon's tail towards the Kaf, further distinguishing this design from the S2DR.

#23, the H4L used for HBRN on my book cover, checks, & MasterCard. It never had a top half, but most of the bottom half is excellent.

#28, the Z2U used for ZYF on my book cover, checks, & MasterCard. Its top half is poor, but the bottom inscription is excellent.

So "credit" for all 5 handle-words used on my book-cover, checks, & credit cards goes to Robert Deutsch. But more importantly, his words of encouragement fueled my interest in the phenomenon, & led me into university libraries where I learned more about what scholars thought. After more than 700 pieces of correspondence between us, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the past decade by sharing some other highlights from the early years. Here's how little I knew about the various types of LMLK seals, now known to be 21:

GMG on October 7, 2000: "[The G2T] seems to have no city name like the other four I've heard about, so that would mean that there are five types now. Is that correct, & do you know of any other variations?"

RD on October 8, 2000: "There are several variants beside the four with the usual inscription: 1) only the LMLK as the one in the auction, 2) only the name of the city at the top without the term LMLK, 3) upside down script, etc."

GMG on December 31, 2001: "[O]n page 53 of the latest BAR [vol. 28 #1] there is a photo of a LMLK handle [excavated from Aroer]. They don't mention which city is inscribed & I don't recognize the letters. I'm guessing that it is ZYP, but you are the authority. I recently obtained a copy of the book, "Inscriptions Reveal" [by Efrat Carmon & Ruth Hestrin], & enjoyed seeing so many photos of LMLK handles with each of the city names. Do you know of any other book that has this many photos (6) of LMLK handles--I am referring to the ones I collect, not the more expensive ones with personal names."

RD on December 31, 2001: "Books are seldom and you have to see the excavation reports such as Jerusalem, Lachish, Natsbeh, etc."

This particular response did more to inspire me to begin researching than anything else. Until this point, I didn't know such excavation reports existed. He faxed a copy of Lemaire's 1981 "Classification" to me on February 23, 2002. By then I had already constructed a preliminary version of the LMLK website, launched on my personal AT&T page. After sending my bids for his 2002 Passover auction, he commented:

RD on March 25, 2002: "You have by now the lmlkmania"

After returning from a month of supervising excavations at Megiddo, he wrote:

RD on July 30, 2002: "[W]hen we will see"

GMG on July 30, 2002: "Although the URL you mentioned above ( is available for me to own, I chose not to use it because I don't want any scholars to think it is a commercial site for profit. Some publishers only allow me to reproduce their photos since it's non-profit for research purposes. My website has been online at since May with about 200 pages & 300 handle photos (800 images)."

It took a few days for my brain to figure out that I could place the Research portion of the website under a sub-folder titled "research", while using the domain for anything related to LMLKology, & not disappoint any curators or other publishers.

So Robert Deutsch not only enabled me to own many of these rare treasures, but he pointed me in a research direction, & inspired me to purchase the LMLK dotcom domain.

This song by Lanny Wolfe will serve as the theme song for how I feel about Robert & everyone who has helped me with this project over the past decade:

G.M. Grena