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Based on "Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations" by Alex G. Malloy. Revision, updates, and expansion, by Joseph T. Sermarini.

Holy Land Antiquities For Sale in the Forum Ancient Coins Shop

The term "Holy Land" has been used rather loosely by scholars and laymen alike. It is often to refer to the modern state of Israel, e.g., "visit the Holy Land on El Al airlines." In addition to this usage, the area of Syria and Palestine known in Biblical times as the land of Canaan is sometimes called by Biblical scholars "the Holy Land." For this reason in Jewish and Christian popular usage, this land of Canaan is also known as the Holy Land or the Promised Land. In the art world today the term Holy Land most often today refers to an area which encompasses in whole or in part the modern countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Sinai area of Egypt, and Israel. This area is referred to as the Holy Land by students of ancient art because most of the major events of the Judaeo-Christian Bible occurred within its borders and it is thus the focus of Biblical archaeology. For example, the Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon when it reached its greatest extent included most of this area.

As we noted above the Bible sometimes refers to the area or various parts of it as the land of Canaan. In Biblical times, Canaan was usually defined as the part of Syria and Palestine lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River where Israel arose c. 1200 B.C. The name is probably derived from a term meaning "maker or dealer in purple-dyed goods." In the Bible, Canaanite sometimes has the technical meaning of "merchant" (see Isaiah 23:8 for example). It was inhabited by a number of different peoples and tribes mostly of Semitic origin. The Bible mentions the Jebusites, Hivites, Amorites, and Hittites, among others. The culture of these "Canaanites" extended back to at least the Neolithic period as excavations have shown. Important Biblical sites such as Beersheba were established as early as the Chalcolithic period. Canaanite culture was, by no means, as uniform as Egyptian culture. Canaanite are was eclectic in nature. Although many of the ornaments are Egyptian, the figures wear Asiatic dress, and the many depictions of lions found are a feature of Assyrian or Hittite art. The famed Megiddo ivories dating from the 13th century B.C. are a good example. They reflect the same mixture of styles, plus a strong Aegean influence as well. Canaanite civilization for the most part did not produce great monuments like those found in Egypt and Mesopotamia, but its physical remains, pottery, bronzes, jewelry, etc., shed much illumination on the life of its people. It reached its height in the Bronze Age when the mythic epics of the Canaanite deities such as Baal, Astarte, and local deities such as Melqart formed the basis of the synchristic religion of the people throughout the area. Political power was for a new cultural identity, although much of the materials artifacts showed little change. This was probably because Canaanite culture, including the material culture and art forms, its Semitic language, and literary forms, as well as some religious ideas and practices, were shared by the concurring Israelites. Other aspects of the Canaanite culture were anathema, such as sacred prostitution and human sacrifice. For this reason the Bible tells us that the Lord commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites. According to the Biblical narrative, following the conquest the great Canaanite city states lay in ruins and the belief in monotheism, which was at the core of the Hebrew religion, gradually took a firm hold on the people. Soon after Israel's emergence in Canaan, three new terms tended to replace Canaan in general usage: Israel for the interior highlands, the stronghold of the Israelites; Phoenicia for the northern coast which maintained its "Canaanite" character; and Philistia for the southern coast which had been conquered by the "Sea Peoples," the Philistines of the Bible.

The Kingdom of Israel was the name both of the united kingdom of the Israelites under Kings Saul, David, and Solomon (c. 1020-c. 922 B.C.). When King Solomon died in 922 B.C., the united kingdom of Israel was divided into the Kingdom of Israel in the North and the Kingdom of Judah in the south.

The Kingdom of Israel included what was left of the territory east of the Jordan River and extended south to a few kilometers north of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah). The Northern Kingdom's own capital moved several times until King Omri finally established it permanently at Samaria, c. 875 B.C. The first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was Jeroboam but he failed to establish a firm dynasty. Throughout its short history Israel was continually rocked by bloody dynastic changes. The small nation was constantly harassed by strong enemies and experienced only two brief periods of expansion in the 9th and 8th centuries before it was destroyed by Assyria in 722-721 B.C.

The southern kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah, outlasted its Northern rival, perhaps because of the strength of its capital, Jerusalem. Judah collapsed in 587 B.C. when it was overrun by the Babylonians. 

Although the Israelite kingdoms of the Biblical period left little in the way of great archaeological art (almost nothing remains of Solomon's temple, for example), their cultural and religious legacy was great.

Phoenicia was the ancient Greek name for the area extending from Mount Carmel north to the Eleutherus River in Syria. The Phoenicians were linguistically and culturally related to the Canaanites.

Already inhabited in Paleolithic times, Phoenicia developed into a manufacturing and trading center early in Near Eastern history. Cedars from its mountainous hinterland were imported by the Old Kingdom Egyptians c. 2800-c. 2200 B.C. By the 2nd millennium B.C. a number of Phoenician and Syrian cities achieved preeminence as seaports and vigorously traded in purple dyes and dye-stuffs, glass, cedar wood, wine, weapons, and metal and ivory artifacts.

Divide by the Lebanon Mountains into small, loosely leagued city-states, Phoenicia was never politically strong. During Phoenicia 's period of independence, individual Phoenician cities interacted with the rising state of Israel. In the 10th century B.C., King Solomon employed men and materials supplied by Hiram of Tyre to build his temple at Jerusalem. He joined with Hiram in sending sailing expeditions into the Red Sea and possibly also into the Mediterranean. The Bible also records personal and political contacts between the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Phoenician rulers.

During the early years of the 1st millennium B.C., Phoenicians explored the Mediterranean and perhaps even farther. During this period the Phoenician culture reached its peak. The Phoenician alphabet, devised in the 2nd millennium B.C. and adapted by the Greeks about 800 B.C. or earlier, was subsequently transmitted to Western Europe through Rome.

Phoenician art represents a direct extension of preexisting Canaanite traditions and, as such, displays much eclecticism, drawing forms and motifs from the art of contemporary civilizations. This blending of motifs of diverse origins to create original and aesthetically unified art objects is a basic characteristic of all Phoenician art. The art of the Phoenicians in the west shows a similar blending, with an admixture of local ideas. Skilled in most media, Phoenician artist excelled in glass making, ivory carving, metal engraving, ornamental sculpture, and gold jewelry, as well as pottery and terracotta sculpture. Much material finds its way into the art market from modern Lebanon, and Phoenician art is sought after by many astute collectors today.

In the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods the art of the Holy Land reflected the tastes generally prevalent in the times. As a somewhat provincial area, however, they are often not in the highest style. The crafts were, however, highly developed; for example, some of the finest glass in the Roman Empire has been found in the Holy Land.

As can readily be see, the art of the Holy Land, both in the pre-Biblical and Biblical periods, and even in the post-Biblical periods, often does not exhibit the technical sophistication and grander of the art of other ancient cultures. It does, however, have a special historical and cultural significance. Many of the "great" finds of Biblical archaeology, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, are noted more for their historic value than their artistic merit. The material remains which do survive, however, particularly those of the common people of the Holy Land, provide endless fascination for the scholar and collector alike.


Seals, scarabs and other small amulets are some of the most interesting items frequently found in the Holy Land excavations. Most amulets are of stone and often represent various animals. They are often highly stylized but realistic types are found as well. Amulets in other materials such as faience are found with some regularity. Seals are usually of the stamp variety often in steatite or other soft stones, but other stones and materials are also found. Cylinder seals in various materials are found with some frequency as well. Many of the scaraboids from the Holy Land date, not surprisingly, to the Hyksos period, c. 1648 - 1534 BCE, and are usually made of steatite; in fact, some of the finest Hyksos scarabs known were found in the Holy Land. Scarabs and scaraboids of other periods, some of which exhibit local peculiarities in various materials, are also fairly common.


Stone tools and weapons, such as arrow and mace heads, weights and the like, were in use from the Neolithic period onward. Metal arrowheads and other weapons are found in large numbers from the Bronze Age onward and can be easily dated by style and workmanship.


Pottery finds in all periods from the Chalcolithic on are usually extensive, and pottery is the tool archaeologists use most in the Holy Land to date finds. Much work was done by archaeologists to establish the dating of Holy Land pottery and it is now very well established. Although the pottery was often rather simply decorated, sometimes with a nice slip or incised geometric pattern, some periods, such as the bichrome period in the Bronze Age, saw the production of beautifully painted pottery.  Also see:

Beersheba Ware

Kefar Hananya Ware

Khirbet Kerak Ware

Holy Land Black Juglets

Philistine Bichrome Ware

Philistine Monochrome Ware

Sphero-Conical Vessels

Tell el-Yehudiyeh Ware

Wadi Rabah Ware

White Ware

The black clay, which makes black pottery, is mostly found in all of the Golan and in parts of the Western Galilee (Kefar Hananya is in Western Galilee), due to very high basalt (basalt is black) content. It is common in that area. Most Kefar Hananya pottery is red. Red soil (Terra Rosa) was mostly available in Eastern Galilee and along the Mediterranean coast and was much easier to obtain in Western Galilee than white clay from around Jerusalem and Negev (southern desert). White clay, which makes light beige pottery and slips, is found mostly in Judaea and in the south, due to high chalk and lime content. In Galilee it had to be imported (3 days travel by donkey, plus different province jurisdiction, border crossings, etc.). For clay types in Israel see, Singer, A. The Soils of Israel. (Berlin/Heidelberg, 2007).


Terracotta sculpture, although not as varied as in other areas, was quiet popular in the Holy Land, particularly in the Bronze Age and Greco-Roman Periods. The Bronze Age sculptures are usually rather stylized but the later sculptures are realistic in the Greco-Roman manner. Most represent various deities as usual.

Judean Pillar-Figurines


Stone objects are many and varied from Holy Land excavations, ranging from beautifully decorated ossuaries and sarcophagi to finely modeled stone vessels. Stone sculpture was also common in many periods. Softer stones such as limestone and alabaster seem to have been preferred and local volcanic stones were also in use. Some of the finest glass from Greco-Roman period comes from the Holy Land. Some of the glass makers were so famous they signed their works much as painters do today.


The use of oil lamps in the funerary ritual was an important part of funerary practice in the Holy Land from very early times. Thus literally tens of thousands of lamps were preserved in sealed tombs and graves. For this reason we have a better record of the development of the oil lamp from the Holy Land than we do from many other areas. Lamps were usually of clay, the early ones were in the shape of shallow dishes or shells. By the Greek period, lamps became closed vessels, and in Roman times they were highly decorated with molded scenes. We can learn much about religious beliefs, both pagan and Judaeo-Christian, from the decoration on these lamps. Holy Land oil lamps are much in demand, both by lamp collectors and collectors of antiquities in general.

Beit Nattif Lamps

Beit-Shearim Lamps

Bet Shean Lamps

Bi-Lanceolate Oil Lamps

Candlestick Lamps

Early Samaritan Lamps

Erotes Confronted Oil Lamps

Jerash Lamp

Pinched-Rim Oil Lamps


Some of the most important antiquities found in the Holy Land were these written records. This is because any written records from the area might shed some light on the Bible. This is true of a name found on a seal as much as it is of a Dead Sea Biblical scroll. Many different languages and forms of writing were in use during various periods and in various parts of the Holy Land. Texts have been found written on leather, papyrus, and other materials including various metals in a number of languages and scripts, written on clay tablets in cuneiform script, inscribed in ink on pottery shreds (ostraca), stamped as seal impressions (bullae), or inscribed on the seals themselves, inscribed on objects of various materials particularly metal and glass, carved on stone monuments, and painted on walls and other objects. Since the Holy Land was one of the major crossroads of trade and travel in antiquity, almost every type of writing in use in the Mediterranean area at one time or another is found languages such as Greek and Latin. Needless to say, any written objects is highly desirable to most collectors.


Jewelry, made both of precious metals and based metals, is often found in Holy Land excavations, particularly graves, since it was the custom to bury the deceased with his or her finery. Grave robbing was not the millennia-long industry it was in Egypt, perhaps because there was no centralized burial ground for royalty like the Valley of the Kings to constantly inspire tomb robbers with visions of untold wealth. Many intact and relatively intact burials have been found, albeit mostly of ordinary people rather than nobility, but even common people had some form of personal adornment in most periods of antiquity.


Bronze Age 3150 - 1200 BCE

The Bronze Age is the period 31501200 BCE when objects made of bronze were in use. Many writers have linked the history of the Levant from the Bronze Age onwards to events described in the Bible. The Bronze Age and Iron Age together are sometimes called the "Biblical period." The periods of the Bronze Age include the following:

3150-2900 - Early Bronze Age I
2900-2600 - Early Bronze Age II
2600-2300 - Early Bronze Age III
2200-1950 - Middle Bronze Age I
1950-1550 - Middle Bronze Age II
1550-1400 - Late Bronze Age I
1400-1300 - Late Bronze Age IIA
1300-1200 - Late Bronze Age IIB

Hyksos Period c. 1648 - 1534 BCE

The Late Bronze Age is characterized by individual city-states, which from time to time were dominated by Egypt until the last invasion by Merneptah in 1207 BCE. The Amarna Letters are an example of a specific period during the Late Bronze Age when the vassal kings of the Levant corresponded with their overlords in Egypt.

Iron Age 1200 - 539 BCE

The Iron Age in the Levant begins in about 1200 BCE, following the Late Bronze Age Collapse, when iron tools came into use. It is also known as the Israelite period. In this period both the archaeological evidence and the narrative evidence from the Bible become richer and much writing has attempted to make links between them. A chronology includes:

Iron Age I 1200 - 1000 BCE
Iron Age IIA 1000 - 925 BCE
Iron Age IIB-C 925 - 700 BCE
Iron Age IIC 700 - 586 BCE
Iron Age III 586 - 539 BCE (AKA Babylonian Period)

United Kingdom of Israel Kingdom under kings Saul, David, and Solomon c. 1020 - 922 BCE
First Temple Period 970 - 586 BCE
The United Kingdom divided into the Kingdom of Israel and The Kingdom of Judah 922 BCE
Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyria in Neo-Assyrian Empire c. 720 BCE
Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian Kingdom 587 BCE

Babylonian Period 586 - 539

587 BCE     Conquest of Jerusalem by Babylonians; second deportation (first deportation in 597); Gedaliah installed as governor in Mizpah
582 BCE     Assassination of Gedaliah; refugees flee to Egypt; third deportation to Babylon
562 BCE     Jeconiah, king of Judah deported and imprisoned in Babylon in 597, released; remains in Babylon
539 BCE     Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II, ruled c. 550-530 BCE) conquers Babylon

Persian Period (Yehud Medinata) 539 - 332 BCE

Yehud Medinata (Aramaic for the State of Judah), or simply Yehud, was an autonomous state of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, roughly equivalent to the older kingdom of Judah but covering a smaller area, within the satrapy of Eber-Nari. The area of Yehud Medinata corresponded to the previous Babylonian province of Yehud, which was formed after the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian Empire (c. 597 after its conquest of the Mediterranean east coast, and again in 585/6 BCE after suppressing an unsuccessful Judean revolt). Yehud Medinata continued to exist for two centuries, until being incorporated into the Hellenistic empires following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

539 BCE     Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II, ruled c. 550-530 BCE) conquers Babylon
538 BCE     "Declaration of Cyrus" allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem
530 BCE     Cambyses II (ruled 530-522 BCE) succeeds Cyrus
525 BCE     Cambyses conquers Egypt
522 BCE     Darius I (ruled 522-486 BCE) succeeds Cambyses
521 BCE     Negotiations in Babylon between Darius and the exiled Jews
520 BCE     Return to Jerusalem of Zerubbabel as governor of Yehud and Joshua as High Priest
520-515 BCE  Rebuilding of the Temple (Second Temple)
458 BCE     Arrival in Jerusalem of Ezra (7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes I, king 465-424 BCE)
444 BCE     Arrival in Jerusalem of Nehemiah (20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes I)
397 BCE     Arrival in Jerusalem of Ezra (7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes II, king 404-358 BCE)
332 BCE     Alexander the Great conquers the Mediterranean provinces of Persian Empire; beginning of Hellenistic age

Hellenistic Period 332 - 64 BCE

Early Hellenistic Period 332 - 167 BCE
Late Hellenistic (Hasmonean) Period 167 - 64/37 BCE

Roman Period 63 BCE - 330 CE

The Roman period covers the dates 63 BCE to 330 CE, from Pompey the Great 's incorporation of the region into the Roman Republic until Rome 's adoption of Christianity as the imperial religion. The Roman period itself features several stages:

    Early Roman period (including the part of the late Hasmonean and Herodian periods) 63 BCE to 70 CE
    Middle Roman period: 70135 CE (Jewish-Roman wars period); 135200 CE (Mishnaic period)
    Roman Provincia Syria Palestina 132 - 390 CE
    Late Roman period 200330 CE (Talmudic period)

The end of the middle Roman period marks the end of the predominantly Jewish culture of Judea, but also the beginning of Rabbinic Judaism through Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai in the city of Yavne. Therefore, the late Roman period is also called the Yavne Period.

Byzantine Period 330 - 638 CE

The Byzantine period is dated 330638 CE, from Rome 's adoption of Christianity to the Muslim conquest of Palestine. The transition from the Roman to Byzantine period coincided with the growth of extensive imperial funding to construct Christian religious institutions in the area, often by transforming the older pagan buildings. A third of the 40,000 objects recovered annually from archaeological digs in Israel attest to the ancient Christian presence in the area.


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Mazar, A. Excavations at Tell Qasile, Part One The Philistine Sanctuary: Architecture and Cult Objects. Qedem 12. (Jerusalem, 1980).
Mazer, A. & N. Panitz-Cohen. The Iron Age IIA Pottery from Tel Rehov, Vol. IV Pottery Studies, Inscriptions and Figurative Art. Qedem 62. (Jerusalem, 2020). Available Online
Meshorer, Y. Ancient Means of Exchange, Weights and Coins. The Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum Collection A. (Haifa, 1998).
Montanari, D. "Metal Weapons in the Southern Levant During the Early Bronze Age: an Overview" in BAR 2753 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 67 -75. Available Online
Muscarella, O. Bronze and Iron, Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (New York, 1988). Available Online
Muscarella, O. (ed.). Ladders to Heaven: Art Treasures from Lands of the Bible. (Toronto, 1981).
Nagorsky, A. "The Oil Lamps from Bet Shean (Youth Hostel)" in Atiqot 77 (2014), pp. 1 - 21. Available Online
Negbi, O. Canaanite Gods in Metal: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Syro-Palestinian Figures During the Bronze Ages, circa 3100 to 1200 BCE. (Tel Aviv, 1976).*
Negev, A. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. (New York, 1972).
Nigro, L. Tell Es-Sultan/Jericho in the Early Bronze II (3000-2700 BC): the rise of an early Palestinian city, A synthesis of the results of four archaeological expeditions. (Rome, 2010). Available Online
Oman, T. A Man and His Land, Highlights from the Moshe Dayan Collection. (Jerusalem, 1980).
Pande, B. "Harappan Ring-Kernoi: A Study" in East and West, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (September-December 1971), pp. 311-323. Available Online
Petrie, F. Gerar. (Vienna, 1928). Available Online
Petrie, F. Hyksos and Israelite Cities. (London, 1906). Available Online
Petrie, F. Researches in Sinai. (London, 1906). Available Online
Press, M. The Iron Age Figurines of Ashkelon and Philistia. Ashkelon 4 (Winona Lake, IN, 2012). Available Online
Pritchard, J. The Cemetery at Tell es-Saidiyeh, Jordan. (Philadelphia, 1980).
Prichard, J. Tell es-Sa'idihey: Excavations on the Tell, 1964-1966. (Philadelphia, 1985).
Rosenthal, R. & R. Sivan. Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection. Qedem 8. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Sala, M. "Early Bronze II pottery productions at Tell es-Sultan" in Tell Es-Sultan (Rome, 2010), pp. 253 - 323.
Sellin, E. & C. Watzinger. Jericho: Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen. (Leipzig, 1913). Available Online
Skupinska-Lovset, I. The Ustinov collection: The Palestinian pottery. (Oslo, 1976).
Spycket, A. The Human Form Divine: From the Collections of Elie Borowski. (Jerusalem, 2000).
Sellers, O. The Citadel of Beth-Zur. (Philadelphia, 1933). Available Online
Sussman, V. Greek and Hellenistic Wheel- and Mould-Made Closed Oil Lamps in the Holy Land, Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 2015. (Jerusalem, 2009).
Sussman, V. "Lamps - mirror of the sea" in Sefunim (Bulletin) of the National Maritime Museum Haifa, 8, 1994, pp. 80-100.
Sussman, V. Late Roman to Late Byzantine/Early Islamic Period Lamps in the Holy Land: The Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Oxford, 2017).
Sussman, V. Oil-Lamps in the Holy Land: Saucer Lamps: From the Beginning to the Hellenistic Period: Collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 1598. (Jerusalem, 2007).
Sussman, V. Ornamented Jewish Oil-Lamps From the Destruction of the Second Temple Through the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. (Jerusalem, 1972).
Sussman, V. Roman Period Oil Lamps in the Holy Land: Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. BAR 2447. (Oxford, 2012).
Stanislau, L. Light and Life: Ancient Christian Oil Lamps of the Holyland. (Jerusalem, 2001).*
Stern, E., A. Erlich, et all. Excavations at Dor, Figurines, Cult Objects and Amulets, 1980-2000 Seasons. (Jerusalem, 2010).*
Tufnell, O. The Iron Age: The Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition to the Near East III. (Oxford, 1953).*
Tushingham, A. Excavations at Jericho, II: the Tombs Excavated in 1955-8. (London, 1965).*
Tushingham, A. The Excavations at Dibon (Dhibn) in Moab: The Third Campaign, 1952-3. (Cambridge, 1972).*
Tushingham, A. Excavations in Jerusalem, 1961-67, Vol. I. (Toronto, 1985).
Wampler, J. Tell En-Nasbeh, Vol. II: The Pottery. (Baltimore, 1947). Available Online
Westenholz, J. (ed.). Let There Be Light Oil-Lamps from the Holy Land. (Jerusalem, 2004).*
Winnett, F. & W. Reed. The Excavations at Dibon (Dhibn) in Moab. Part I: The First Campaign, 1950-1951. Part II: The Second Campaign, 1952. (New Haven, 1964). Available Online
Wright, G. Biblical Archeology. (Philadelphia, 1962).
Wright, J. A Look at Some of the Small Finds at Ramat Rachel: Arrowheads. (unpublished, 2008). Available Online
Yadin, Y. Hazor, the rediscovery of a great citadel of the Bible. (New York, 1975).
Zayadine, F. "Une Tombe du Fer II A Samarie-Sbaste" in Revue Biblique 75, no. 4 (Oct. 1968), pp. 562 585. Available Online
Zimhoni, O., et al. Studies In The Iron Age Pottery Of Israel: Typological, Archaeological And Chronological Aspects. (Tel Aviv, 1997).

The list above includes only references specifically dedicated to holy land antiquities. Many other references will be used that are dedicated to specific antiquities types  (e.g., lamps, pottery, weights) or by antiquities materials (e.g., glass, terracotta, metal). Antiquities not included in this list may be identified by clicking on them in the item descriptions or visiting the shop page for the antiquity type or material.

*Reference not held by FORVM.


Holy Land Antiquities For Sale in the Forum Ancient Coins Shop

American Society of Overseas Research - Levantine Ceramics Project (ASOR LCP)

Adler Collection Website - Lamps from the Holy Land

Penn Museum Online Collection

Holy Land Antiquities For Sale in the Forum Ancient Coins Shop

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