Describing everyday life in ancient Israel is one thing; recreating it is quite another.
A new exhibit at Harvard’s Semitic Museum tries to do just that—and with considerable success.
“The Houses of Ancient Israel: Domestic, Royal, Divine” provides a rich look at life in Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah (late eighth century B.C.). It features a full-scale Israelite house furnished with authentic artifacts and realistic reproductions, as well as paintings intended to give visitors a glimpse of life in ancient Israel’s royal palaces and in Solomon’s Temple.
“The Houses of Ancient Israel” is an outgrowth of a book by senior curator and Harvard University professor Lawrence Stager and retired Boston College professor Philip King entitled Life in Biblical Israel, which won the Biblical Archaeology Society’s award for the best scholarly book on Biblical archaeology published in 2001 and 2002. The exhibit takes the book into three dimensions. The house on display consists of two stories. The bottom floor is taken up by a cooking area and an animal pen; the upper floor, reached by a ladder, is where the inhabitants lived and slept. The visitor can walk into the fully-stocked house and proceed up a ramp to the second floor.