Samaria_Ostraca (1)

Samaria Ostraca

Ostracon_from_Samaria_Drawing (1)

Samaria Ostraca Drawing

“In the tenth year, from Azzah to Gaddiyaw, a jar of refined oil.”

– Samaria Ostracon 17a

In 1910, George A. Reisner of the Harvard University excavation at Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, uncovered a royal archive of ostraca. These documents, written on potsherds, recorded the palace’s receipt of wine or oil from outlying villages and estates. Wine and oil commodities were traditional forms of payment for taxes to the king. The king during the date range of these receipts was probably Ahab, whom most archaeologists credit with renovating Samaria’s acropolis palace with massive walls and elegant ivory inlay. Some of the place names in the Samaria ostraca can even be correlated with Israelite clans mentioned in the biblical book of Chronicles. Taxes were imposed on clans, rather than on individual households, and so the villages mentioned in the ostraca represent collectively taxed communities.