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The Israelites settled in the land of Israel, then known as Canaan, around 1200 BCE and lived as farmers and herders. They practiced terrace farming on the steep hillsides of central Canaan, growing olives, grapes, dates, wheat, and barley, and raising goats, cattle, and sheep. The Israelites lived in clusters of small stone and mud-brick buildings, which archaeologists call “four-room houses,” because they generally had four rooms on the first floor, including a courtyard used for cooking, grinding grain, and craft production. A pillared area may have been used to house livestock, while the other rooms were likely meant for storage and daily activities. Clay jars, flasks, cups, bowls, and oil lamps have been found in these areas. Rooms on the second floor probably provided the living and sleeping quarters. Furniture, which scholars believe was made from wood and textiles, has not survived from the period.

After the Israelite monarchy was established in the late 11th century BCE, many Israelites continued to live in small villages and retain their traditional agricultural lifestyle, but others began to move into cities. These urban craftspeople, merchants, and government officials obtained agricultural supplies from the farmers who still lived in the countryside.