Friday, January 10, 2020

Midianite Potters of Edom

A tent-shrine or tabernacle was discovered at Timnaʿthat resembled the biblical description of the tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness. Stone-lined post-holes were found with acacia wood fragments and numerous copper rings. There were copious fragments of copper wire knots likely used to suspend the tent curtains.

At all sites where Midianite sherds were found (B. Rothenberg and Glass 1983; Parr 1988; Knauf 1988: 21-23), their dating was of the New Kingdom period of Timna, an industrial-scale metallurgical site in and around the Wadi Arabah in ancient Edom. The region was rich in copper and the metal work done there appears to have involved religious ritual. Juan Manuel Tebes points out that the Midianite ceramic wares also appear "consistently in cultic contexts, administrative buildings, and burial offerings."

In the early 2000's, Dr. Thomas E. Levy led an archaeological survey that yielded earlier dates than had been assigned to the Edomite kingdom. The team found scarabs, painted pottery shards, metal arrowheads, hammers, grinding stones, and slag heaps. Dr. Levy stated, "Only a complex society such as a paramount chiefdom or primitive kingdom would have the organizational know-how to produce copper metal on such an industrial scale." 

An "impressive amount of Midianite ware" was found around the tent-shrine at Timna. The Midianites were related to Abraham through his son Midian, born of Abraham's cousin wife Keturah (Gen. 25). They should be considered a Horite Hebrew clan of Edom. Moses married his cousin Zipporah, a daughter of the Midianite priest Jethro. Moses' father married a Horite woman of Edom (see diagram above).

At Timna there was a shrine to Hathor, the mother of Horus. (Horus is derived from the Ancient Egyptian HR, meaning "Most High One.") Hathor was the patron of the Horite metal workers at Timna and at other metal workers sites in the region. A temple dedicated to Hathor was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timna by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University. In his book Timna, Rothenberg concluded that the peoples living in the area were "partners not only in the work but in the worship of Hathor." (Timna, p. 183)

Concerning House 314 at Tel Masos near Beersheba Juan Tebes writes: “Within several of its habitations, rests of metallurgical activities were visible on the ground, possibly connected to a ritual function, as has been suggested by the appearance of ‘human’ figurines very similar to those found at the Hathor temple of Timna."

Tel Masos sits at the gateway to Hebron where Sarah resided. Keturah likely resided at or near Tel Masos or Beersheba. These sites were within Abraham's territory in Edom as shown on the map above. Note the placement of the wives on a north-south axis, a characteristic of the Horite marriage pattern involving two wives.

Horite Hebrew priests were active in metal work, as is evidence in the stories of Aaron and Moses fabricating ritual objects. They were rather widely dispersed in the ancient world. Horite Hebrew priests were found in Aram, Edom, Judah, and Moab. The Midianite potters were among them.

Related reading: The Chiefs of Edom, The Substance of Abraham's Faith, The Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative; A Land Whose Stones are Iron and From Whose Hill You May Mine Copper.; The Antiquity of the Edomite Rulers

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