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Death, and the proper treatment of the dead, were important issues for both Canaanites and Israelites. Appropriate arrangements included activities perpetuating the name of the deceased, offerings of food and other gifts, and the proper stewardship of family land. Upon death, males, at least, seem to have joined the ranks of their ancestors. Ideas regarding the nature of life after death are not well developed in either the Hebrew Bible or in ancient Near Eastern texts. Death was clearly frightening, and the dead were associated with the underworld, but the implications of these connections were not spelled out clearly.

The most common burials in the Bronze and Iron Age are in family tombs located in natural caves or hewn chambers, approached by a shaft or passageway and closed with a single stone or pile of rubble. These tombs were used as burial vaults for the family over several generations. As each new body was placed in the tomb, previous burials were displaced, creating a jumble of intermixed bones and old offerings on the periphery. Funeral offerings typically included jars containing grain, wine and oil, items of personal apparel and occasionally beds, tables, gameboards and other items of everyday life. These varied offerings point to a belief in the afterlife.

An Iron Age tomb from the Baq'ah valley in Jordan contained the skeletal remains of at least 227 individuals. These communal tombs, and the associated burial rituals, may have helped solidify kinship ties within lineages (extended families) and mark land ownership.

 

What else was inside the tombs?
clay coffins,
called
Sarcophagi




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