The “Patriarchal Period” describes the time (depicted in Genesis 12-50) when the Jewish patriarchs – Abraham down through his great-grandchildren – were alive. This was probably during the period sometimes called the Middle Bronze Age. William F. Albright dated the patriarchs to around 2100-1800 BC, although his conclusions are frequently questioned.
The culture in this period changed so slowly that even those who accept the historical nature of the patriarchs are forced to admit that the cultural clues which Albright found in abundance at best puts them in a window that is a 1000 years wide. Most modern scholars are less concerned with the history of the patriarchs as with their story. Certainly, the primary reason they are remembered is that they are the eponymous ancestors of the tribes of Israel held together by sibling commonality under Jacob, and a religious unity going back to Abraham.
The Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are portrayed holding souls in their laps.
Wall painting from the Rila Monastry, Bulgaria.