In the 1920s and 1930s, archaeologists discovered elaborate carvings in ivory, dating to the 8th or 9th centuries BCE, near the city of Samaria, once the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. New research upends long-standing assumptions about how the carvings got there. Bible History Daily reports:
In excellent condition, the ivories depict scenes of exotic wildlife and flora, mythological creatures, foreign deities, and much more. . . . When the Samaria ivories were first excavated, they were immediately explained as Phoenician products and therefore considered foreign to their discovery site. However, there is currently no archaeological evidence to indicate that the Samaria ivories were, in fact, Phoenician. Recently some scholars have challenged the long-accepted assumption about the ivories’ origins. . . .
[More recent] discoveries suggest that there was a local tradition of wood, bone, and ivory carving of inlays (decorative materials inserted in something else), featuring recurring themes, during both the Bronze and Iron Ages in the southern Levant. The early interpretation of categorizing the Samaria ivories as Phoenician has impacted the subsequent discovery of other southern Levantine ivory artifacts. The [presumptive association of] any such ivory find with the Phoenicians has caused the region’s local ivory tradition to be overlooked.