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Whereas recent studies have correctly identified a clan-based social structure presumed in the place names of the Samaria Ostraca, an analysis of the power relations within these structures has not been sufficiently developed. Approaching the evidence from a consumption perspective of the commodities for yn yšn (‘aged wine’) and šmn r¬½ (‘washed oil’) suggests that the economic significance of these items is tied to complex social interactions. Specifically, both archaeological and ethnographic studies associate such prestige commodities with elite feasting and ceremonial displays. By gifting these items, the central power engaged in a form of ‘competitive feasting’ to secure political capital for future use from clan leaders of the periphery of Samaria. Accordingly, the Samaria Ostraca hint at the use of redistributive mechanisms to secure power relations at elite gatherings.


Originally published in Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 144:3, 155-163, DOI: 10.1179/0031032812Z.00000000015

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