Burnished Pottery and Gender Hierarchy in Iron Age Israelite Society
Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology
One of the typical characteristics of Iron Age II pottery in ancient Israel is slip and burnish, which was applied to many vessels, especially bowls, jugs and juglets. No functional explanation can account for the phenomenon, and the reason for the (re)appearance of this treatment at the turn of the first millennium BC should be sought in the social realm. Vessels that received this treatment were used for food consumption, while vessels used for food preparation and storage remained in their -natural- form. In ancient Israel, like many other societies, food preparation was regarded as women-s work and was conducted by them in the private part of the dwelling, while public food consumption was regarded as men-s business. It is suggested that the level of social complexity, which peaked around 1000 BC with the formation of the monarchy, also deepened gender inequalities, which were symbolized by an elaborated treatment of vessels used for masculine activities. It is also possible that, while vessels used for women's activities remained within the realm of nature (earthenwares), the slip and burnish transformed the vessels used for masculine activities and brought them into the realm of culture.
Author: Avraham Faust