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Bar-Nathan, Rachel


Masada VII. The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–1965. Final Reports: The Pottery of Masada.


Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society 2006. XII, 436 S. mit zahlr. Abb., Tab. u. Tafeln 4° = The Massada Reports. Geb. $ 92,00. ISBN 965-221-059-5.


Andrea M. Berlin

In 28 B. C. E. King Herod chose Masada’s naturally protected height on which to build a series of increasingly elaborate palatial compounds. Some 90 years later the Zealots withdrew here, setting the stage for the final conflict of the Great Revolt against Rome (66–73/74 C. E.). Yigael Yadin’s excavations brought the buildings and associated finds to light; now we have the publication of the pottery, the most abundant of those finds. The volume’s title notwithstanding, not all of the pottery found at Masada is included. Miss­ing are all fine table wares of both eastern and western manufacture, including eastern Sigillata A, Cypriot Sigillata, Gaulish and other western sigillatas, and thin-walled wares – an omission that precludes conclusive interpretive study.
This volume is largely a typological presentation. B.-N. classifies every vessel found at the site according to form (e. g., bowl, jug, stor­age jar), type (e. g., bowl with incurved rim) and sub-type (bowl with incurved rim and convex wall). Each group is named using the system B.-N. devised for the pottery from Hasmonean and Herodian Jericho, though here the designators are preceded by an »M«, such as M-BL1A. This system may make sense for internal classification. For readers, however, the format is off-putting and, in some cases, silly. Imported amphorae are given Masada numbers (e. g., M-AM2, which is actually a Knidian amphora) as is Nabatean pottery (Nabatean painted bowls are type M-BL8 and also M-Nab PBL). In the end this system promotes jargon at the expense of easy use and ready understanding.
B.-N. does discuss larger issues and draw interesting conclusions. In the Herodian period, one type of locally made storage jar (M-SJ5, a baggy vessel with a short, ridged neck) has been found only at Masada and Machaerus, suggesting that it carried commod­ities produced exclusively for the royal house. The distribution of local jars and imported amphorae in the Herodian storerooms sheds light on administrative organization. Many of these spaces contained only one or two vessel types, such as Storeroom 140, which held locally made wine jars, and Storeroom 141, which held Italian wine amphorae. The amphorae provide impressive evidence of Herod’s tastes and reach: in addition to wine from Campania, Tarentum, Brindisi, and several other Italian vineyards, the king also enjoyed dried apples from Cumae and fish sauce from Spain (most of the conclusions regarding imported amphorae are based on H. Cotton’s and J. Geiger’s study of the tituli picti published in Masada II [1989]).
B.-N.’s interpretation of the amphorae as trade items is pro­blem­atic, however. Of the 20 different imported types attributable to the Herodian period, twelve occur in one example only. In fact only two appear in quantity: 67 vessels from Brindisi, carrying Philonianum wine (M-AM7C = Dressel 2–4) and 23 vessels from Apulia and Istria, carrying wine and oil (M-AM10 = Lamboglia 2 and Dressel 6). From their inscriptions, it appears that all examples of these two types arrived via a single shipment in 19 B. C. E. This sort of information – many singular vessels and just a few large shipments – does not bespeak regular commerce so much as occasional royal gifts and purchases.
In the Zealot-period, the pottery found in the casemate wall units was largely for storage or food-preparation, revealing that these areas were used as living quarters. The amount of intact pottery, coupled with the estimated population size (around 1200), allows characterization of household usage. The table service is especially notable: a single sigillata bowl per family and only a few dishes for serving and eating, such as kraters and small plates. This suggests to B.-N. that at mealtime people sat around a cooking vessel and used bread to scoop up food. Interestingly, a similar scen­-ario is postulated for residents of the contemporary village of Gamla in the central Golan Heights, based on the reduced number of serving and dining vessels per household (cf. Andrea Berlin, GamlaI. The Pottery of the Second Temple Period. Israel Antiquities Authority Reports 29 [2006], 150–51). Another similarity between these contemporary Revolt-period populations is a fondness for perfumes and oils. The Zealot-period assemblage of Masada in­cludes 520 small vials, so roughly one for every two people; at Gamla there were 161 vessels for the ten households of Area R (Berlin, op. cit., 131.152). B.-N. suggests that the quantities may be connected with the nearby balsam factories at ‘En Gedi and Jericho; a more fundamental reason is likely the general adoption of this aspect of Roman daily life.
A final note: as with all preceding Masada volumes, the production standard here is impeccable: large fonts; excellent editing; and plentiful, clear drawings and photographs. The final report series well serves this exceptional site.