Courtesy Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums

Pottery rattles, like these from Tell Beit Mirsim, are well-known; several dozen specimens have been registered so far. Their average height is 4 inches (10 cm).

Each rattle contains one or more small pellets. Rattles apparently came into use in the Middle Bronze Age (second millennium B.C.) and went out of use by the eighth century B.C. They appear first in temple contexts, then as tomb accessories, and finally in houses where they were presumably children’s toys. In the ninth century B.C., metal bells began to replace pottery rattles.

The Hebrew name of the rattle may have been mena’ane’a (pl. mena’an’im), “shaker.” The word is found in the Bible only once, in 2 Samuel 6:5, the description of the transporting of the Ark: “And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of cypress wood, on lyres, and on lutes, and on timbrels, and on rattles, and on cymbals.”