BAR 34:06, Nov/Dec 2008
Answer: approximately 40 gallons
The ubiquitous collared-rim jar, or pithos, of Iron Age I hill-country settlements has long been at the center of the debate over Israelite origins and ethnicity. For decades, the large ovoid storage jar with fattened rim, heavy handles and telltale ridged or “collared” neck was taken as a sign of an “Israelite” settlement. With more recent discoveries of collared-rim jars in coastal cities and the highlands of Transjordan, however, the jar’s status as an ethnic marker has come under increased scrutiny.
Regardless of its ethnic attribution, this large vessel was ideally suited to the economic and environmental conditions of Iron Age I hill-country life. Because Iron Age I villages were typically located several miles away from the nearest spring or reservoir, the jars may have functioned much like in-house water tanks. When these “tanks” needed filling, villagers used donkeys to convey smaller, lighter jugs of water from the nearest spring back to the village.