Archaeological evidence from houses and households provides detailed insight into everyday life of families in the biblical world. A basic Israelite house consisted of only three or four rooms, providing a family with limited space for performing the many daily tasks necessary for survival. Families thus came to depend on accessing the resources of their neighbors, sharing courtyards, storage rooms, roof tops, and ovens to complete daily activities. These dwelling compounds often shared interiors walls, fostering close living arrangements. Archaeological remains from Tell en-Nasbeh provide evidence of linked residential structures that were inhabited by extended families of ancient Israel.
These shared living and activity spaces within residential complexes supported participation in communal production and subsistence practices among extended families and neighbors. Male and female residents of all ages cooperated in activities, such as textile production and food preparation, in multifunctional, open-access rooms and courtyards. This type of communal setting allowed for different practices and crafts to intersect, and encouraged interaction, learning, and multi-tasking among household members on a daily and seasonal basis.
The specific types of activities taking place around the home varied depending on the seasons. While weaving and spinning were mainly conducted inside during rainy winter months, ceramic and mudbrick production were usually practiced outside in the arid spring and summer because they required large, dry, open spaces. In contrast, some spaces were reserved for specific uses that remained consistent throughout the year; for example, ritual spaces and storage areas, though changes in family size and resources might alter their size and placement.
We can access these types of social interactions and family activities in domestic space through studying the architectural and material remains of ancient houses. Such cooperative family dynamics contributed significantly to the health and livelihood of a settlement’s community, as is evidenced by the remains from Tell en-Nasbeh, and were the foundation of ancient Israelite society.
~This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of William G. Badè, son of W. F. Badè, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at UC Berkeley, and long-serving Advisory Board Member of the Museum (1924 –2012)