Archaeology Biblical Archaeology

Elite Canaanite Burial Discovered in the Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has announced the discovery of a 3,300-year-old Egyptianizing coffin near Tel Shadud in the Jezreel Valley. The excavation was led by IAA archaeologists Dr. Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri.

The find dates to a time when Egypt ruled Canaan. As explained by Carolyn R. Higginbotham in “The Egyptianizing of Canaan”in the May/June 1998 issue of BAR, from the Late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age, Egypt had a profound influence on the material culture of Canaan:

Since the discovery of the Amarna letters, archaeologists have also unearthed mounds of artifacts in Egypt and Canaan, dating to the late second millennium B.C.E., which make it clear that life in Ramesside Canaan was markedly different from that in the preceding Amarna age. In short, during the Ramesside period, the material culture of the Canaanite lowlands began to show conspicuous Egyptian influence. True, during the Amarna age, Egyptian artifacts were present in the archaeological record of Canaan. But by the 13th century B.C.E. (Late Bronze Age IIB, which corresponds roughly to the XIXth Dynasty of Egypt), the amount of Egyptian-style objects had increased significantly at Canaanite sites. Egyptian-style artifacts are similarly prevalent at Iron Age IA (between about 1200 and 1150 B.C.E.) sites; thereafter, these kinds of objects decline in frequency. 

The third edition of the Biblical Archaeology Society’s widely-acclaimed Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Destruction of the Temple serves as an authoritative history of ancient Israel. Written by the world’s foremost Biblical scholars and archaeologists, each chapter has been updated and expanded to incorporate more than a decade’s worth of outstanding new discoveries and fresh scholarly perspectives.

LBA coffin Jezreel detail

Detail of the Egyptianizing coffin after cleaning. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The excavation at Tel Shadud revealed a 13th-century B.C.E. cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoid lid buried alongside a number of storage vessels.

“As was the custom, it seems these [pots] were used as offerings for the gods, and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife,” said the Tel Shadud archaeologists in an IAA press release.

The excavators believe that the burial belonged to an elite Canaanite individual who served the Egyptian government or imitated Egyptian burial customs. Among the rare finds discovered with the skeleton of an adult in the coffin was a gold signet ring bearing an Egyptian scarab seal. Inscribed on the seal is the name of Pharaoh Seti I, who was the father of Ramesses II. Other grave goods include a bronze dagger, bronze bowl and hammered pieces of bronze.

Discovered near the coffin were the graves of two men and two women who may have been family members.

Read the press release from the IA

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