A Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine From the Mid-11th C BC to the Early 10th C BC

Or, the Chronology page of this blog in narrative form, Part 2

Part 2: The Filling of the Power Vaccum

I shall start with the Middle Iron I, where I left off. Canaan had been free of Egyptian taxation for nearly a century. Trade between villages, hamlets, and cities was on the rise. The Philistines had firmly established themselves from the Wadi el-Arish to the Yarkon. Ekron was surpassing Gath in size. Philistine Bichrome ware was traded from Tel Masos even as far as the little Middle Iron I village of Hazor. The sedentary population of the central hill country had risen from roughly twelve thousand in the Late Bronze Age to roughly thirty thousand.

Economic development led to political development. Villages governed by few became cities governed by one. Megiddo rose from a small pit settlement to a decent walled Iron Age I city-state, as did Beth-Shean. Chinnereth became a major city-state of the Galilee, certainly dominating the fish, and probably the copper supplies of the region. It was, however, almost without a settlement base outside its city walls, Galilee’s hamlets being primarily located in the mountains around Har Meron. The overall trend in the eleventh century was a gradual urbanization, though an increasing rural population in the Hill Country prevented any repeat of the conditions of the Early Bronze III. Broadly speaking, Iron Age I city-states could only control a couple hundred square miles, often less.

This state of affairs, however, could not be kept for more than roughly a century and a half. It depended on two conditions that could not be sustained- a state of economic depression in the rest of the Mediterranean, most importantly, in Phoenicia, and a failure of states with territories larger than 600 square miles in area to form. Both of these conditions would be clearly shown unsustainable by the early ninth century.

The first condition to be shown unsustainable was the second. In the central hill country, a few towns of some importance had emerged by the mid-11th century BC. The first was Shiloh, a town some three acres in size in the approximate center of the central group of Iron I settlements in the central hill country. The town was evidently a thriving regional center with public pillared buildings, possibly used for storage. This town was destroyed c. 1030 BC, as shown by C-14 dating. Shechem Stratum IX was probably destroyed at around the same time, although it might have been destroyed earlier. Continue reading “A Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine From the Mid-11th C BC to the Early 10th C BC”

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Chris White Mentions Me on His Facebook Page, Gets Me >100 Views

The day has finally come: Chris White, the mind behind Ancient Aliens Debunked, has linked to this blog on his Facebook page. Obligatory screenshots:
chriswhitecomments

A Wonderful Medium-Sized Film From Brian Dunning

-I just love this movie. If anything, it’s better than Ancient Aliens Debunked. It should be shown to all High School students in America. The only qualms I have with it is that it seems to view the premodern era as one long period of barbarism (only partly true), and that its claim about the Dark Ages could only really apply to Western Europe. Part 2 of my Non-Biblical History is mostly finished, as is my first review of T&L&L’s “Biblical History of Israel”. Check the Schedule page. Also, 100 or more views per day has now become a new normal occurrence for this blog.

Over One Hundred Views Five Days In A Row

This has never happened before in the history of this blog! Also, in humor news, Aren Maeir has described the platform of the ‘Yesh Avar‘ party. I am not at all confident “[c]omplete vessels for all” is an achievable goal. In other news, Aren Maeir is reported to have ‘liked’ the following video:

Horrors in Education

Recently, I caught wind of news that “[s]tudents in [a] [Texas] district spen[t] two days watching what lesson plans describe a[s] “the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,” which presents “a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.”. By coincidence, I also happened to stumble upon this gem from Madalyn Murray O’Hair as imagined by William Murray:

One time, his mother [O’Hair] read through his junior high history book and made this comment: “I can’t believe all the hogwash in there. It treats the parting of the Red Sea just like it really happened. It’s incredible! Later on it talks about Jesus and says he was the son of God, that he performed miracles and rose from the dead. [Expletive] stuff I ever read. It has no place in a public school textbook!”

-Amen! This reminded me of a certain textbook (actually used in government schools in America!) I remember looking at around early-mid 2010. Take a look at its section on The Ancient Hebrews and the Origins of Judaism. Compare it with the first part of my ‘Non-Biblical History‘. Weep a little. Look at the hopelessly unsatisfactory second section on Judaism. Sigh. Notice the nonsensical Persian Gulf coastline on page 114. Sigh deeper. Notice the absence of any attempt to connect the development of the Jewish religion with actual Jewish history (except on page 116). The description of the physical geography of Canaan (yes, Canaan, not the more conventional “Palestine”) is somewhat satisfactory, but utterly lacking in any analysis of how Canaan’s geography impacted its people’s history. It also utterly fails to mention the olive and the grape and their fundamental roles in the lives of the people of the central hill country of Canaan. I recall an anecdote of a student in a class using this textbook in which the student claimed his teacher had marked him down on a test or quiz for failing to mention the navigability of the Jordan (which, in fact, is almost non-existent). In short, the state of education about the history of Judaism (and Palestine in general) in America is dismal, at best.

In other old news, I also recall I once notified Pearson for confusing Assyrians and Sea Peoples on page 65 of this book, the image of the “Soldiers of Shalmaneser III in Battle” being captioned “Soldiers of Ramses III in Battle” and visa versa.

Why NOVA’s Peasant Revolt ‘Theory’ Is Wrong

I was the first commentator on this video. I also disliked it. The reasons for this are to be found in the comments section of the video. As I have described my explanation for the origin of the Israelites, similar to the ‘peasant revolt’ hypothesis, in the previous post, I would like to take a moment to describe why the peasant revolt explanation described in the NOVA program on the Bible’s origins is wrong.

The relevant part of the program:

A radical new theory based on archaeology suggests what happens next. As that oppressive social system declines [Hazor shown here], families and tribes of serfs, slaves and common Canaanites seize the opportunity.

[smashed idol here]

In search of a better way of life, they abandon the old city-states, and head for the hills. Free from the oppression of their past, they eventually emerge in a new place as a new people, the Israelites.

-Needless to say, no archaeologist is called upon to explain this theory. This is because it is not a ‘new’ theory (it is from the 1970s) and because it is not based on archaeology. Perhaps the most striking part of “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” is that it does not mention the Sea Peoples at all (except for the quotation of a single Bible verse mentioning them). This is inexcusable. The Philistines were the single most important contributor to the collapse of Egyptian rule in Canaan. The ‘oppressive social system’ of Canaan under New Kingdom rule could have theoretically been maintained for eternity, discounting the effects of Egyptian land grants to the Priesthood of Amun. The oppressive social system of Late Bronze II Greece could not have been maintained for eternity due to the fact there was no strong empire in the Aegean that could commit genocide and mass population movement or even patrol the seas. The fact is, the great turn from settlement to nomadism in Canaan was during the Late Bronze IB, when Egyptian rule over Canaan was just beginning. It was, as Israel Finkelstein says, a great settlement of long-existing nomads in Canaan that took place during the transition to Iron Age I. Of course, displaced lowland Canaanites also formed a good portion of the ‘proto-[monarchical] Israelite’ population, but they were driven by the Philistines and the social collapse in the lowlands the Philistines caused. Hazor is an unusual case; most cities in Canaan were long largely depleted of population by the Amarna era. Thus, though the words of the program are technically correct (except for the first ones), they ignore more important facts, and their combination with the scenes in the video leads the viewer to incorrect conclusions.

A Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine from the 13th C BC to the 11th C BC

Or, the Chronology page of this blog in narrative form, Part 1.

As I have recently stumbled upon the idea (which I think false, for archaeological reasons), that the Pentateuch was composed almost entirely around 270 BC and the pre-Exilic material found in it was preserved at Mizpah (partially due to the seamless blending of Babylonian and Late Iron Age Judahite tradition in the Primary History), I have discovered the need to write a truly extrabiblical history of Iron Age Cisjordan (Israel, Judah, and Philistia). While I do think that it is impossible to write a good and comprehensive history of Iron Age Cisjordan without use of the Bible, a wholly extrabiblical history would certainly be useful to compare with the Biblical one.

Part 1: The Collapse of the Imperial Order and the Return of the Sovereign City-State

I shall start a little earlier, in the Bronze Age, specifically the LB IIB. The context was one of what seemed to be next-to guaranteed perpetual peace. The treaty ending further military conflict between the Egyptian and Hittite empires had been accepted by both parties only a few decades before. Needs for defense were next-to nonexistent. A few hundred Egyptian troops could crush any existent foe of the Empire. Maritime trade in what would later be the Eastern Roman Empire was experiencing its greatest period of prosperity ever seen in the Bronze Age. Ivory carving in Cisjordan was witnessing its greatest use in the whole Late Bronze Age. Canaanite scribes were beginning to use the Alphabet, an invention whose advantages had been unnoticed by Eastern Semitic and Egyptian scribes alike.

Yet, all was not well with this imperial order. The Late Bronze IIB was a golden age, indeed, but only for two major classes: those dependent on taxes and those transporting goods between those dependent on taxes. The Forgotten Man was benefited only by the security of this state of affairs, which, more often than not, was only security for his expropriators and those dependent on them. The Forgotten Man could accept this state of affairs, as he did in Egypt, or, as he did in Palestine, Syria, and the Balkans, become to the established authorities a nameless, faceless enemy of civilization and imperial progress. Thus, the Amarna letters reveal the hills of the West Bank (as well as any hilly area in the Egyptian empire as far as northwest Lebanon) were endemically plagued by wandering bands of ‘apiru. Indeed, these bands might have been responsible for the destruction of some Late Bronze Canaanite cities (such as Megiddo VIII) known to not have been destroyed by Egyptians or by Sea Peoples.** Though some (such as Anson Rainey) have taken pains to distinguish the ‘apiru and the shasu, the former subsisting on stolen property, the latter on herded sheep, it seems to me that both are two faces of the same coin. Much like in the modern West Bank, where unemployment is over 20% and looting is endemic, the ancient West Bank was a place where much surplus labor remained untranslated into surplus productivity.

Thus, when the name ‘Isrr’, very likely to be connected with the later-mentioned land of “Sir. ‘i. la. aa“/”Israel” by historians, Continue reading “A Short Non-Biblical History of Palestine from the 13th C BC to the 11th C BC”