The book of Kings describes King Solomon, who presumably lived in the early 9th century BCE, as having to import master craftsmen from the nearby kingdom of Tyre to help build the Temple and various royal buildings. Drawing on this story and on the lack of material evidence to the contrary, archaeologists have long assumed that the ancient Israelites were not especially advanced when it came to artisanship. A new discovery suggests otherwise, as Robin Ngo explains:
From the archaeological record, we see that the Canaanites living in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (ca. 2000–1500 BCE) in the southern Levant were master craftworkers in ivory, bronze, gold, and silver. At [the ancient city of] Hazor—which was “the head of all those [Canaanite] kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10) in the second millennium BCE—excavations directed by Yigael Yadin (in the 1950s and 1960s) and by Amnon Ben-Tor (from the 1990s to the present) uncovered magnificent basalt sculptures carved by the Canaanites, including statues, vessels, stelae, and altars.
In 2010, [a new group of] archaeologists at Tel Hazor discovered a basalt workshop dating to the 9th century BCE, when the Israelites occupied the site. The workshop is located on the northern part of the [site] just outside a large agricultural storeroom, but whether the two structures were related remains to be determined. The workshop contained unfinished basalt vessels, of which there were four main types that had also been popular in the second millennium BCE: plates/platters, pedestal bowls, tripod bowls, and bowls with out-turned walls. Additionally found in the workshop were remnants of the vessel production, including basalt chips, ash, iron chisels, flint tools, and basalt hammerstones. Was this Israelite craft tradition related to that of the Canaanites, the previous occupants of Tel Hazor until the city was burned, destroyed, and abandoned around 1300 BCE?
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