Jar Handles Tell A Story -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 02:3 (Summer 1973)
Article: Jar Handles Tell A Story
Author: Anonymous


Jar Handles Tell A Story

One of the mysteries of archaeology has been the interpretation of 61 inscribed jar handles from the sixth century B.C. found by Dr. James Pritchard at Gibeon. After analyzing the inscriptions and comparing them to a geneology in 1 Chronicles, Dr. Aaron Demsky believes that he has found the solution to the puzzle.

Gibeon was the major city of the Gibeonites, the people who deceived Joshua (Joshua 9). It was here that the Lord made the sun stand still when Joshua fought the Amorites (Joshua 10). In later history, the tribe of Benjamin inhabited the area and remained there until the fall of the Southern Kingdom to the Babylonians in 587 B.C. The geneology of the Benjamites living in the vicinity of Gibeon is given in 1 Chronicles 9:35–44.

The city was excavated by Dr. Pritchard between 1956 and 1962. Among his many significant discoveries there, Dr. Pritchard uncovered the remains of a vast wine industry. A honey-comb of vat-shaped pits were found dug into the rock. The pits were used for aging jars of wine at a constant temperature of 65 degrees. Rock-cut basins, troughs, and settling tanks were also part of the installation.

Pritchard felt that the inscriptions on the jar handles were somehow related to the wine industry, but was unable to come up with a satisfactory explanation of their meaning.

Dr. Demsky’s analysis of the inscriptions led him to conclude that they fell into two major groups. The types of inscriptions in each group are:

Group A —

gbn gdr...

gbn gdr zryhw

gbn gdr mryhw

Group B —

gbn dml sbl + hnnyhw nr

gbn dml...

dml gbn

hnnyhw nr

The meaning of gbn in both groups was obvious. It was the name Gibeon (Hebrew in Old Testament times had no vowels). In Group A, Demsky related gdr to the clan of Gedor listed in the Gibeon geneology in 1 Chronicles 9:37. The third word on the Group A jar handles, he contends, was a personal name.

The inscriptions, Demsky concluded, were “shipping labels” for jars of wine. Each family sent its products to the centrally located wine installations at Gibeon, where t...

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