8. Samaria Ostraca

113 total ostraca found by G.A. Reisner's excavation in Samaria in 1910 (some in 1931-5). They probably date to 786-746BCE during reign of Jeroboam II, just before the Assyrians destroyed Samaria in 722 BCE. The ostraca contain messages written in pen and ink on potsherds; they are short receipt-like messages that record amount of wine and oil sent to the capitol city from certain districts. The ostraca refer to the 9th, 10th, and 15th year of the king, who was probably Jeroboam II. Some believer ostraca with years 9th and 10th to date to Jehoash, while ostraca with year 15th to date to Jeroboam II, son of Jehoash; both reigned in 8th cent.

They are important because they shed light on administrative record keeping and provide the geographical location of clan districts within the tribal area of Manasseh. They also contribute to the development of a relative typology of early Hebrew scripts and they indicate contracted diphthongs which, along with some other variations, reflect a dialectical difference from the Hebrew of Judah at that time (Cross and Freedman 1952:48–49). 

Many inscriptions have the l preposition before certain names. It's difficult to know if they are the recipients of the goods, tax-collectors, or the senders of these goods. Rainey and Aharoni hold that L-people are beneficiaries of the king of Samaria; they receive goods from outside of the capitol city from tenant farmers. Yadin, however, thinks that L-people are owners of estates in regions beyond Samaria; L = "belonging to". Cross and Freedman agree and also state that the the ostraca represent payment to these L-men. On the other hand, L. Stager thinks Samaria ostraca misunderstood because people try to define groups bringing goods, the “l”-men, as “districts”. But the L-men cross districts.  L-people are leaders of kin groups that supply the oil. Defined more by kin networks than by bureaucratic border districts.

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