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The Bible describes how the Israelites conquered the Promised Land and divided it among their tribes, with ten clans of the tribe of Manasseh receiving land west of the Jordan River. (Joshua 17:1-6) Archaeological evidence found in 1910 confirms this, with the discovery of 102 pottery fragments, or ostraca, in Samaria. These ostraca were written in Hebrew and documented the delivery of luxury goods, including wine and cosmetic oil, to the royal palace of the capital city in the eighth century B.C.E.
Of the 63 fully legible fragments, all clans identified belonged to the tribe of Manasseh. This discovery provides an extrabiblical link between the clans of Manasseh and the territory in which the Bible claims they settled. These ostraca also confirm the Bible writer Amos’ description of the wealthy people of that era, who “drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the choicest oils.” (Amos 6:1, 6) This verifies that such items were imported to the section of land inhabited by the ten clans of Manasseh.
The Samaria Ostraca provide valuable insights into the daily life and trade practices of ancient Israelites. The inscriptions on these ostraca include names of individuals, cities, and clans, as well as details about the quantities and types of goods being exchanged. This information helps scholars understand the social and economic structures of ancient Israel.
In addition to the Samaria Ostraca, other archaeological discoveries have confirmed the historicity of the Bible. For example, the Tel Dan Stele, discovered in northern Israel in 1993, contains an inscription that mentions the “house of David,” providing the earliest known non-biblical reference to King David. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-20th century also provided a wealth of information about the beliefs and practices of an ancient Jewish people.
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