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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Persian and Hellenistic Periods

Much attention has been paid in recent decades to the archaeology of the Persian and Hellenistic periods (conventionally 539–63 BCE). Most of the evidence comes from sites along the coastal strip and plains—Tel Akko, Tell Abu Hawam, Shiqmona, Tel Megadim, Tel Dor, Jaffa, Yavneh-Yam, Ashkelon, Gaza, Tell Jemmeh, Lachish, and Marisa. Trade is visible in the increasing use of weights, coins, and pottery imports (especially Attic pottery) (Stern 1995), and industrial activity such as dyeing, weaving, and pressing wine and olive oil. The cities—e.g. Tell Abu Hawam, Shiqmona, Tel Megadim, Dor, and Marisa—began to exhibit the Hellenistic style of town planning. At Dor the fortifications developed in the third century BCE from the Phoenician to the Greek style (see Stern 1995). The hill country, however, remained agricultural and poorer (Berlin 1997: 4). Third-century agricultural trade with Egypt, in slaves, grain, and oil, is evidenced in the Zenon papyri (the archive of an official of Ptolemy II's finance minister Apollonius); the bilingual ostracon from Kh. el-Qom dated 277 BCE tells of money-lenders operating in both Greek and Aramaic; by 200 BCE a royal official near Bethshean could set up a public inscription in Greek. The Sidonian colony of Marisa bred pigeons and made olive oil, and buried its dead in splendidly painted Hellenistic tombs. The general picture of third-century life in Palestine is well illustrated by Eccles. 2: 4–8. The archaeological evidence (for a convenient summary see Berlin 1997) has vividly underlined the changing nature of society in third- to second-century Palestine, as it moved from Persian control to the new Hellenistic world of the Ptolemies and Seleucids, and ultimately to the autonomous rule of the Hasmonaean kingdom via the Maccabees. One of the best indicators of this development is the description of the Maccabees’ family tomb built by Simon c.140 BCE, with its pyramids, columns, memorial armour, and carved ships (1 Macc. 13: 27–30), though no remains have been found.

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