Daily Archives: June 24, 2008

LMLK jar handles

During the time of the Divided Kingdom, pottery jars with handles bearing the Hebrew letters LMLK seem to have been in common use. T. C. Mitchell comments briefly on these handles:

These handles of pottery jars which had been stamped before baking, with seals show symbols, either a four-winged scarab or a two-winged disc, with lmlk, ‘belonging to the king’ written above it in Hebrew script and a place-name below it. Over eight hundred of these stamped handles have been found at over twenty excavated sites in Palestine, nearly all in the territory to which Judah was confined by about 700 BC. (The Bible in the British Museum, page 55).

Tourists who have an interest in archaeology often pick up shards of pottery as they walk across various tells. It is not uncommon to locate a jar handle or the rim of a bowl. Recently a college student found a LMLK handle at Ramat Rahel, a site between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Several blogs have commented on it. Todd Bolen has a nice photo of the handle here. A newspaper article about the chance find is here.The LMLK web site has a report here.

This is a photo of a LMLK jar handle that I made in the British Museum. The handle was found at Lachish. The LMLK handles have the phrase LMLK (“belonging to the king”) and the name of one of the cities that served as a distribution center: HBRN (Hebron), ZP (Ziph), SWKH (Socoh), or MMST. This one has SWKH.

King Hezekiah built “storehouses…for the produce of grain, wine and oil” (2 Chronicles 32:28). Mitchell says that the LMLK vessels “would have been suitable for any of the three staples derived from the land, grain, wine or oil.”