This week we will be discussing “Lamp and bowl” deposits. “Lamp and bowl” deposits are a series of vessels (two to six) that were placed in the corner of a room, usually under the floor or in the foundation trench dug for a wall. The deposits include bowls and lamps, although no set number of items was used, and at times, only bowls or only lamps are found. The deposits are typical of the Late Bronze Age II (13th century BCE) and Early Iron Age I (12th-11th Centuries BCE).
Lamp and Bowl Deposits were found in many sites, including Lachish, Gezer, Aphek, Tell Jemmeh, Tel Sera, Tell el-Hesi, Ashkelon and Tel Miqne/Ekron (mostly in SW Canaan). The items placed in the deposits were, for the most part, unused, although at Tell es-Safi, we have recovered a number of examples that appear to have been used, which is quite unique.
While these items have been found in all contexts (domestic and public buildings), the large LB building at Tell es-Safi has yielded five different deposits, possibly pointing to the building’s function (cultic?). This is in addition to other deposits (a cow’s skull, a dagger, a jar). Shlomo Bunimovitz and Orna Zimhoni studied this phenomenon in great detail (in an article in IEJ 43 : 99-125), reaching the conclusion that this tradition was an adoption (and altering) of an Egyptian custom, at a time when there was a strong Egyptian presence and influence in the region. It should be noted that in the close vicinity of the lamp and bowl deposits of the LB building at Tell es-Safi/Gath, quite a few Egyptian or Egyptianizing objects were found, including scarabs, seals, and a locally-made sherd with an incised Egyptian Hieratic inscription (discussed by Maeir, Martin and Wimmer in AuL 14 : 125-134).
The deposits have long been understood as an offering for the foundation of the new building. however, now that we have found them in Area E in such abundance, it is clear that they were offerings to Elmo!!!! :-)