The Iron Age II Pottery Assemblage from Horvat Teiman

(Kuntillet ‘Ajrud)

Etan Ayalon

Horvat Teiman (Kuntillet ‘Ajrud), situated along the ridge of Wadi Quraiya (approximately 50 km. south of Kadesh-barnea), was excavated from 1975-1976 by Ze’ev Meshel of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. The discussion on the pottery of the site is based upon two assumptions: a) the site was almost totally excavated, therefore the ceramic finds represent virtually a complete assemblage; b) the site was populated for only a brief period. All the ceramic types found at ‘Ajrud are represented and parallels are drawn from sites in the Land of Israel and its surroundings, including: Israel (i.e. Samaria and the Galilee), Judea, the Shephelah, the Southern Coast (i.e., Philistine), Syria/Phoenicia, and Transjordan. The objective of the discussion is to establish both the time frame of the assemblage and the parallel geographic sources of the pottery. Ceramic vessels which were common during Iron Age II in diverse areas in the Land of Israel, but were absent from ‘Ajrud, or were present only in small quantities - were studied to determine whether the reasons for their absence were chronological, geographical, or inherent in the special character of the site.

The Kuntillet Ajrud Texts
Kuntillet Ajrud is c50 km south of Kadesh Barnea in the Sinai desert, but close to the trading routes.  In 1975/6 excavations revealed a small site with one large building.  The excavator, Meshel, suggested the building was a sanctuary providing a religious stopping place for travellers who were making their way through the desert region of Sinai. Here was a place to stop for prayer and bring gifts to the deity.  The building is dated to the end of the 9th and beginning of the 8th centuries BCE. Some of the rooms are covered with a layer of white plaster and on this plaster are five inscriptions. One is unintelligible, a second offers a religious inscription which speaks of blessing by Yahweh and his asherah, a third blesses the gods Baal and El and the fourth and fifth mention both Yahweh and Baal.  The plaster inscriptions are problematic since the white plaster on which they were written was found in small pieces and they had to be reassembled.  Many scholars disagree on the reconstructed sequence and interpretation of the  inscription that refers to Yahweh and Asherah.

In addition to these wall inscriptions, there are inscriptions on two storage jars written in red ink, dated c750 BCE.  They read:

I bless you by Yahweh of Teman and by his Asherah
May he bless you and keep you and be with (you), my Lord