SEVENTH TO SIXTH CENTURIES B.C.1
John S. Holladay, Jr.
Late seventh/early sixth century decanters (highly stylized jugs; pl. 1), variously made of native Egyptian and Judaean clay sources, have been found at a number of sites in the Nile delta. In the absence of other Judaean ware-forms or other visible imports from southern Palestine, this poses a problem for archaeological explanation. On the basis of inscribed Judaean examples and the distribution of this vessel in Judaean archaeological settings, it is proposed (a) that they are wine-decanters, the personal property of heads of families, and therefore archaeological “markers” (Holladay 2001) of a resident Judaean trading and refugee diaspora (Curtin 1984; below) broadly dispersed over the delta, and, presumably, up the Nile; (b) that they functioned in rituals (Sabbath meals) serving to maintain the communities' characteristic religious beliefs and practices with the tacit goal of uniting the community and ensuring its long-term survival in a foreign environment. It is not impossible that a continuation of rituals involving female figurines and their appurtenances (model animals, horse-and-rider figurines, model lamps in model trees, doves, etc.) is also part of some members of the community's religious praxis, although the characteristic Judaean pillar-based figurines have not yet appeared. These goals, together with native language retention, doing long-range business on an extended “family” basis, and communal enforcement of quality and trading standards, are typical for all trading diasporas. It is further proposed that (c), these expatriate traders resided in company with other “foreign” diasporas: in the present instance, with a dominant Phoenician diaspora. This, too, is a regular characteristic of trading diasporas.
1 For a compelling survey of the mechanisms and conduct of long-distance trade in
world history see Curtin (1984). While Curtin is understandably general with respect
to the ancient Near East, some of the mechanisms of foreign diasporas involved in
ancient long-distance trade and attendant craft specializations, together with their
“markers” in the archaeological record, are explored in Holladay (1997) and with
more direct attention to economic theory in Holladay (2001, with references).