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Samaria Ivories, 9th-8th century BCE

Samaria Ivories.jpg

In ancient Israel, the most significant collections of ivories have been recovered at Megiddo and Samaria. At Megiddo, over 300 ivory fragments, dating from the beginning of the Iron Age (12th century B.C.), came from the palace’s treasury room. Samaria yielded over 500 ivory fragments, which are more pertinent to understanding the passage from Amos because they date to the ninth century or eighth century B.C. (probably the latter). The Egyptian motifs decorating these ivories point to a style originating in Phoenicia. Since the motifs are Egyptian, and the presentation, Phoenician, we can infer that they came from Phoenicia. Egyptian symbolism on the Samaria ivories includes various deities, such as Horus, Ra, Heh, Isis, Nephthys and Osiris. These Egyptian motifs have been taken over and adapted by the Phoenicians, who were the conduits of most things Egyptian in the region.

The pagan symbolism adorning the Samaria ivories may well have outraged Amos as much as the luxury and affluence that the ivories reflected.

The Marzeah Amos Denounces, Philip J. King, BAR 14-04, Jul-Aug 1988.

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