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Stamped Jar Handle

Stamped Jar Handle

Israel, late 8th century B.C.E.
  • Clay: impressed and fired
  • 2 1/2 x 3 x 2 in. (6.4 x 7.6 x 5.1 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Archaeology Acquisition Fund, JM 12-73.271
  • Digital image © 2006 The Jewish Museum, New York Photo by Ardon Bar Hama
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Stamped Jar Handle



  • Look carefully at this artifact. Do you think this is a complete object or a part of something bigger? What makes you say that?

  • What can you say about the decoration on this object? Describe what you see? What does the picture look like to you?

  • How do you think this decoration was created?


After giving students ample opportunity to examine this object, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes:

  • This is part of the handle from a clay storage jar. The stamped marking includes the word lamelekh, meaning “belonging to the king.” Why would someone want to mark a storage jar? How do people mark their belongings today? Why do they do so?

  • Lamelekh storage jars may have held grain, wine, or oil. Instead of clay storage jars, what do we use today that serves a similar purpose?

  • Discuss the theories originally proposed to explain the significance of the lamelekh jars. What kinds of evidence would help support or disprove any of these theories (e.g., location, historical context, material, size)? What is the significance of the recent evidence?

  • The ancient Hebrew alphabet used on the lamelekh seal was one of the first alphabetic writing systems ever developed. Earlier writing systems used pictographs (stylized pictures) to stand for whole words (instead of letters standing for individual sounds). What is the benefit of an alphabetic system?

  • Writing systems generally developed along with governments. Why would governments need writing systems? How else do you think writing contributed to ancient civilizations? How would life today be different if we didn’t have a way to write things down?


  • Development of Writing Systems
  • Growth of Governments
  • Iron Age Israel