Wealthy Canaanite coffin discovered in Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of a “3,300 year old coffin” at Tel Shadud on the north side of the Jezreel Valley.

Part of a burial site dating to the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE) was exposed in an excavation at the foot of Tel Shadud. According to the excavation directors, Dr. Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “During the excavation we discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoidal lid (a cover fashioned in the image of a person) surrounded by a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones. As was the custom, it seems these were used as offerings for the gods, and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife.” The skeleton of an adult was found inside the clay coffin and next to it were buried pottery, a bronze dagger, bronze bowl and hammered pieces of bronze. “Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally”, the researchers say, “We assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government”. Another possibility is that the coffin belonged to a wealthy individual who imitated Egyptian funerary customs. The researchers add that so far only several anthropoidal coffins have been uncovered in the country. The last ones discovered were found at Deir el-Balah some fifty years ago. According to the archaeologists, “An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin. It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite”.

Coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Anthropoid coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The graves of two men and two women who may have been members of his family were also located near the coffin. The discovery of the coffin at Tel Shadud is evidence of Egyptian control of the Jezreel Valley in the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE). During the period when the pharaohs governed the country, Egyptian culture greatly influenced the local Canaanite upper class. Signs of Egyptian influence are occasionally discovered in different regions and this time they were revealed at Tel Shadud and in the special tomb of the wealthy Canaanite. A rare artifact that was found next to the skeleton is an Egyptian scarab seal, encased in gold and affixed to a ring. The scarab was used to seal documents and objects. The name of the crown of Pharaoh Seti I, who ruled ancient Egypt in the thirteenth century BCE, appears on the seal. Seti I was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.§ Already in the first year of his reign (1294 BCE) a revolt broke out against Seti I in the Bet Shean Valley. Seti conquered that region and established Egyptian rule in Canaan. Seti’s name on the seal symbolizes power and protection, or the strength of the god Ra – the Sun God – one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. The winged Uraeus (cobra), protector of the pharaoh’s name or of the sovereign himself, is clearly visible on the seal. The reference to the pharaoh Seti on the scarab found in the coffin aided the archaeologists in dating the time of the burial to the thirteenth century BCE – similar to the burials that were exposed at Deir el-Balah and Bet She‘an, which were Egyptian administrative centers.

§ Other scholars date the exodus from Egypt about two centuries earlier than Ramses II.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Tel Shadud, often called Tel Sarid, is identified with the Biblical site of Sarid included within the territory of Zebulun.

The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid. Then their boundary goes up westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of Jokneam. From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. (Joshua 19:10-12 ESV)

The offspring of Abraham were given the land of the Canaanite.

You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. (Nehemiah 9:8 ESV)

The IAA news release, with more photos, is currently available here. See the report in Arutz Sheva, the Israel National News, here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, traveling in Israel.

 

 

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