Samaria Ostracon

George Andrew Reisner, Samaria ostracon number 4, 1908-1910. Ink on pottery, Harvard Excavations at Samaria, 1908–1910. 2 vols. Harvard Semitic Series. Cambridge: Harvard University. Press, 1924.

George Andrew Reisner (1867–1942) was an American-born archaeologist who worked extensively in Nubia, Egypt, and Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In his excavations at Samaria, Reisner discovered the royal palace built by the kings Omri and Ahab during the Israelite period (circa 930–720 B.C.E.). Excavations at Samaria also revealed a significant cache of ostraca (pottery fragments bearing writing), including the example shown here. The Samaria ostraca date to the eighth century B.C.E. and contain mostly economic accounts of shipments of wine and oil. They are significant not only for understanding Israelite administration but also for what they reveal about the Hebrew language in this period.

Samaria Ostraca no 4

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

Relating to or associated with people living in the territory of the northern kingdom of Israel during the divided monarchy, or more broadly describing the biblical descendants of Jacob.

The kingdom consisting of the northern Israelites tribes, which existed separately from the southern kingdom of Judah. According to the Hebrew Bible, all the tribes were part of a unified kingdom under David and Solomon, but the northern kingdom under Jeroboam I rebelled after Solomon's death (probably sometime in the late 10th century B.C.E.), establishing their independence. The northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.E.

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