Friday, 8 November 2013
Forget for a moment the more recent stuff - going back only to the time of the Patriarchs or the Canaanites - and go back to perhaps 6000 BC. The Israel Museum has things from a much earlier civilization of which we had previously not even heard. It survived a thousand years and developed sophisticated village life, but it left no written records. This is an ossuary - a container for human bones - but the face and the hands on the hips produces something striking and quite unlike the ossuaries of later cultures.
This is a Bronze Age people and the ceremonial pieces they produced have a precision and design about them which few could match before modern industrial manufacturing. Their work has been discovered in places like upper Gaililee and by the Dead Sea - in the latter case including a hoard of these sorts of bronze objects wrapped up together in a mat and concealed behind a large stone at the back of a cave.
A lot of what survives of their culture appears to relate to burial customs (such as the ossuary at the beginning and end of of this post) including the piece above. It is a stand for burning incense and was found in a burial chamber.