Illustrated History: Ancient Customs
Illustrations of Ancient Manners and Customs, Daily Life, Occupations and more.
Altars of sacrifice in the ancient world.
Ancient Fig Trees
Figs and fig trees are mentioned often in the ancient world, especially in Israel. The Mount of Olives was famous for its fig trees, even to this day. It was a common expression for peace and prosperity to "sit under one's own fig tree." Figs were pear shaped and the young figs were especially sweet and tasty. They were eaten raw or made into cakes.
Fishing goes back to the earliest of times. The Nile River in Egypt abounded in fish, and the fishing industry was very profitable there. In ancient times fish were usually caught with either a hook, a spear, or a net. In Israel the Sea of Galilee was famous for its quantities and types of fish.
Ancient Flat Roofs
This illustration shows ancient homes with flat roofs. In Israel it was common for a family to spend much time upon their housetops. The climate was usually mild and ideal for gatherings. The roof usually had three layers: the wooden beams, straw mats, and a clay top. The clay would be pressed down tight with a stone roller.
Ancient Israelite House
Illustration of an ancient house of an Israelite commoner.
Ancient Israelite Houses
First Century Israelite Houses in the Lower City.
In the ancient world there wasn't electricity like today, in fact the inside of a home was about as dim as a 40-watt light bulb. In the earliest of times lamps were stone bowls filled with animal fat. They would float a wick of twisted plant fibers. Later the bowls were made of pottery filled with olive oil. Most homes would contain several oil lamps because olive oil was in abundance and therefore not expensive.
Ancient Lattice Windows
The lattice window looked very much like a fisherman's net, and was used in warm middle eastern countries. It was formed of reticulated work, and highly ornamental. They also had hinges which allowed them to be open or shut. On very hot days then sun is kept out while the air is let in through the trellis openings.
Ancient Men's Hair
In Israel, the Hebrew men and women wore long hair, yet it was trimmed to show humility. Baldness was wholly despised and extremely long hair was the characteristic of the Nazarite. By the time of Jesus men wore their hair much shorter. They also left their sides uncut near the ears. In Israel it was customary for hair to be kept neat and when hair was messy it was usually a sign of mourning or distress.
Ancient Men's Head Covering
In ancient Israel there seems to have been no covering for the head except on certain occasions. For example, during times of great distress it was customary to wear a head covering.
Ancient Mezuzah in Doorway
The word "mezuzah" is Hebrew for doorpost. Moses commanded that the Word of God should be written on the doorposts of every house in order to keep His words constantly in their minds and in their hearts. At a later time the Jews took this literally, by placing Scriptures (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) on a small parchment scroll within a cylinder and upon each post of every room in their houses.
Ancient Oil Vases
Oil was stored in earthenware vessels (Heb. Asak). They were deep and narrow, with the narrowest part at the bottom. They had no handles and were usually inserted into a stone or wooden stand, or simply placed into holes in the ground. The top was capped with wood or some soft material.
Ancient Olive Press
This sketch looks similar to a first century olive press discovered at the ruins of ancient Capernaum in Israel. In ancient times September was not only time to prepare for the New Year, but it was also time for harvesting olives. It lasted through November. Near the orchards there was usually an olive press, as sketched in the image above.
Ancient Olive Trees
Ancient Ox Carts
Illustration of ox carts used by the ancient Philistines
Ancient Patriarch's Clothing in the Time of Abraham
This is how a man would have dressed in ancient times about the time of Abraham which was around 1800 BC. From inside to out he wore an under garment which was bound by a girdle. Over this he wore a coat or outer garment, sometimes called a vesture. Around the head was the head cloth which was a scarf wrapped around the head. He also wore sandals and carried a tall staff.
Phylacteries (tephillin). These are strips of leather to which is attached little square box made of parchment and painted black. The box contains four parts of the Torah written on parchment: Exodus 13:1 and 11:6; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21. According to Deut 6:4-9 two phylacteries were used, one for the head and one for the arm. These (called frontlets in Deuteronomy) were put on in such a way that one box rested on the head, between the eyes (seat of the mind) and the other on the left arm opposite the heart (seat of the actions and the emotions, denoting that one loves the Lord with one's heart). They are referred to as phylacteries in the New Testament (Mat 23:5).
Throughout history "˜the road' has provided an excellent metaphor for life's journey. With amazement, we can look back over the winding grades of difficulty, the narrow pass of opportunity, the choice between security or adventure, when our road divided and we had to make the call.
Ancient Seals and Signets
The ancient seal was a stamp or engraving set in stone, metal or some hard substance like crystal. It was usually a symbol or a figure that was used to make an impression on clay or wax, or some other soft substance. It was usually attached to an object like a possession or a document, in order to give it authenticity, ownership or authority. It was used often in the ancient world, especially in Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria and surrounding nations including Israel.
Ancient Sheep Fold
Shepherds brought their sheep into the fold in the wilderness for safety. The shepherd would lay in front of the door to protect the sheep from an attacker.
In ancient times the "sling and stone" was sort of like a loaded weapon, and quite a valuable weapon if one had the skill to use it. The sling itself was usually made of wool, twined together, though some cultures used leather. In the middle there was a thick pouch (like a plaited thong) for holding and slinging the stone. The stones could be kept in a small pouch for rapid fire slinging. The user would place the stone in the pouch, hold both ends, waive it around the head, and fling it by letting go of one of the ropes. In the Bible "slingers" were part of the Israelite army like the archers.
Ancient Torah Scroll
Illustration of an Ancient Torah Scroll
Ancient Women Traveling
Illustration of Women Traveling in Ancient Times
Ancient Women's Head Covering
Illustration of a Head covering for women in ancient times
Ancient Roman aqueducts were large bridges with pipes or channels set into them. These pipes carried water from rivers and lakes around the country, into Rome and other urban centers. One famous ancient Roman aqueduct that still remains today is the Pont du Gard in France.
Assyrian Stone Altar
Assyrian Stone Altar sketch
Beards and Styles
In the ancient Near East beards were prized as a sign of strength and pride. Beards came in many sizes and shapes as seen in this illustration.
These polished bronze mirrors were used to reflect the face. They were made of molten bronze or copper. They were round, oval, square and most of the time they had a handle. If any rust developed it was easily polished new. Later in ancient Rome mirrors were made of tin, silver and even gold..
Dining in Ancient Rome
The ancient Hebrews, Egyptians, and Greeks. used to eat sitting on mats spread on the floor. The Romans actually reclined on couches around a table. The couches were arranged forming three sides of a square.
Jesus Reading Isaiah Scroll
Jesus was reading from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, when He spoke the incredible words, "today this Scripture is fulfilled."
Jesus Written in Hebrew
This is how the name "Jesus" would have been written in ancient Hebrew documents. The four letters or consonants from right to left are Yod, Shin, Vav, Ayin (Y, SH, OO, A). Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua or Y'shua.
This ancient sun dial reveals the hours in a day. It has a surface with hour lines and a stick or gnomon which casts a shadow as the sun advances in its daily course. The sun dial is mentioned in the Bible as far back as the time of King Ahaz. Herodotus mentions that the sun dial was in use before his time in Babylonia.
The Jewish people were under the yoke of foreign oppressors ever since the Babylonian captivity. During the New Testament times the land of Israel was within the province of Syria and the tax collectors were collectors of Roman taxes, they were extortioners, and very despised. The Jews detested these tax collectors not only on account of their abusive and tyrannical attitude, but because the very taxes that they were forced to collect by the Roman government were a badge of servitude and a constant reminder that God had forsaken His people. The tax collectors were always classed by the people with the harlots, usurers, gamblers, thieves, and dishonest herdsmen, who lived promiscuous, lawless lives. Some of the common terms for the tax collectors were "licensed robbers" and "beasts in human shape."
Tracks Between Walls
Illustration of how people travelled between city walls.
Watchtower in the Vineyard
This was also called a watchman's booth, which was a small sheltered tower in the midst of a vineyard. They were very important during harvest time, where the whole family would often reside. The watchtower was a symbol of protection from enemies and thieves and rising above them.
Wealthy Israelite House
Illustration of a Wealthy Israelite Home
The ancient window looked very much like a fisherman's net, and was used in warm middle eastern countries. It was formed of reticulated work, and highly ornamental. They also had hinges which allowed them to be open or shut. On very hot days then sun is kept out while the air is let in through the trellis openings. .
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