We spend hours filling out character sheets and plotting our story. We know each character has a job to do in order propel the story forward to the dramatic end. We plot carefully to make sure every chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence, and word does its job. But what about the little things?
A few months ago, I had watched a show on NatGeo where an ancient Greek ship, believed to be 5 B. C., was found in the Black Sea. Over 20 amphorae jars were discovered on the deck. Amazingly, they were very well preserved. If you click on this link, you’ll find a few pictures, including fish bones that were discovered in one of the jars, giving you an idea what was being transported.
Containers such as those found at the bottom of the Black Sea, whether made of bronze, onxy, or earthenware, were used for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. You can even see one referenced in Genesis 24:14 when Abraham’s servent went in search of a wife for Isaac.
Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ –let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
I quite imagine that the jar Rebekah carried upon her head had more of a flat bottom. There are a few illustrations of the different types of jars in Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Manners & Customs edited by A. Van Deursen. Some have pointed, rounded bottoms and some are flat.
So, we know the jars were used in commerce and for carrying water. They were also used in households for storing things like olive oil. By keeping the oil in a cool dark place it kept it from being rancid. The jars specific for olive oil usually had longer, thinner necks, which helped to keep the light from spoiling it. Other jars probably stored grains, and possibly used to hold goat’s milk, as well as dyes for weaving and medicines.
Earthenware is just one of the many small things I’ve added into my story to give it a sense of rich authenticity. This one item can’t do it alone, but put together with a myraid of other items and it can sweep you away to another time and place.