Inhabitants of Jerusalem wallowed in luxury as early as the 8th century BC

(ORDO NEWS) — Fifteen hundred fragments of ivory artifacts dating back to the First Temple period were found in the City of David.

The City of David is the oldest of the districts of Jerusalem, founded on the site of the ancient city of the Jebusites, the pre-Jewish population of Judea.

In the 10th century BC, David, the second king of the people of Israel, conquered the city and moved his capital there from Hebron.

The Bible says that David was interested in this particular city, since he wanted to build a temple on Mount Moriah.

He failed to do this: according to legend, the king listened to the prophet Nathan (he explained that, according to God, David fought too much and bloody) and entrusted the construction to his son Solomon, whose name is usually called the Jerusalem temple.

Inhabitants of Jerusalem wallowed in luxury as early as the 8th century BC 2
Ivory inlay on furniture as imagined by the artist

Scholars believe that David envisaged Jerusalem as a place of unification of different Jewish tribes, a single capital and the site of the main temple. In practice, everything turned out quite differently.

According to the Bible, at the end of the reign of Solomon (that is, around 930 BC), ten northern tribes (tribes) of Israel broke away and formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria.

Jerusalem remained the capital of the Kingdom of Judah and, despite the presence of the Temple, did not have much influence in the region.

Israeli archaeologists conducting excavations in the City of David announced the discovery of more than 1,500 fragments of ivory items. Previously, they are dated to the VIII century BC – that is, just the period of the First Temple.

All finds were made in a large building, which was actively used in the 8th-7th centuries BC. It was probably destroyed during the Babylonian conquest in 586 BC. The researchers suggest that the pieces of ivory were once fragments of inlaid furniture or doors.

Ivory is found in the Bible when referring to extreme luxury: for example, King Solomon’s “great ivory throne” or King Ahab ‘s palace , decorated with ivory.

Inhabitants of Jerusalem wallowed in luxury as early as the 8th century BC 3
Ornament of lotus flowers

Before the current finds, we knew only two Middle Eastern cities of that period, in which an abundance of ivory objects was noted.

These are Nimrud, which became the capital of Assyria under Ashurnatsirapal II , and Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Both Nimrud and, to a lesser extent, Samaria are known for their wealth and luxury. But the Jerusalem of the First Temple? Many scientists argue that in the VIII century BC, its heyday is just beginning.

From the new findings, it follows that, in fact, the influence (and hence the wealth) of Jerusalem increases earlier and grows quickly enough, allowing it to stand on a par with the capitals of Assyria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Archaeologists believe that the building, in which the ivory fragments were found, during the time of the First Temple was either the residence of the high priest, or the house of the royal family – or these functions were combined.

A very important question: where did the ivory products come to Judea? According to modern ideas, Jerusalem of that time was not economically developed enough to actively participate in big trade: the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah simply had nothing to offer other peoples.

Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa analyzed bone samples and concluded that the material was obtained from the tusk of an African elephant.

The tusk was imported to Syria, where it was processed by craftsmen. The last assumption is made because all the decorative elements are made in the same style, which shows a clear Levantine influence. Such motifs were popular throughout Mesopotamia, and Syria served as a source of products.

In the ancient Near East, ivory was not only an expensive and prestigious material for making luxury goods. First of all, it meant power.

There are written sources, according to which the kings imported elephants from Africa to Syria and arranged something like a safari, at the end of which the powerful animal was supposed to fall from the blow of the ruler.

Of course, the findings of a large amount of ivory in only one building from the time of the First Temple do not make it possible to draw serious conclusions about the position of Jerusalem among the capitals of the Middle East. But they suggest that our knowledge of the history of the city may not be entirely complete.


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