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Education, work and leisure were concentrated in and around the home. According to the Bible, the ideal family in Ancient Israel was large and patriarchal. The extended family or beit 'av (father's house) consisted of three generations (father, married sons, grandchildren) living together. Excavated houses from the Bronze and Iron Age are small and suggest an average family size of four to eight people. Although extended families might have occupied more than one house, high mortality rates probably kept most families from achieving the biblical ideal.

Excavated remains of a three-room house.
UPMuseum Excavations at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Jordan. Photo courtesy UPMuseum Archives

Artist's reconstruction of a three room house:
central activity area
stable area
3: storage room
4: sleeping quarters
5: clay roof
Drawing by Chad Henneberry

One typical type of dwelling in the Iron Age was the "four-room" house. The full-scale model presented in the gallery is based on a "three-room" variant from the Museum's excavations at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh in Jordan. The house is divided into three parts, each with a distinct function.

A doorway entered into a white-plastered area (1), which served as a space for food processing and other household tasks. In larger houses, this area may have been a courtyard surrounded by rooms and open to the sky above. A row of pillars divided this room from a cobblestone paved area (2) to the side of the house. This space was used for stabling animals and for the storage of agricultural produce. The long broad room at the back of the house (3) was used for long-term storage. Space for sleeping and entertaining guests probably was located on the second floor (4). The second floor may have been reached by a flight of stairs or wooden ladders. The walls of the houses were built of roughly-hewn blocks of stone and the roof (5) consisted of wooden beams covered with layers of branches and smoothed down clay.

This style of house is extremely common throughout the Iron Age, especially in the territory of Israel and Judah. Numerous finds from along the Mediterranean coast of Israel and in the highlands of Jordan make it clear, however, that this house type also was used in Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia.

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