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”

Perhaps the Izbet Sartah Inscription Does Date to the Early Iron IIa?

Article with tables comparing Early Iron Age Phoenician-Palestinian inscriptions here.

Edit (5/16/2013): As the above article has been deleted, I will direct you to this one and this one and this one. I might make my own chart.

The Gath inscription, reading ALWT | WLT or, possibly, ALYT | YLT (witness the Izbet Sartah ostracon’s Yodh) is an early alphabetic inscription inscribed in the Iron IIa. The ‘Izbet Sartah inscription provides a relatively close parallel to this inscription, and dates to either the Early Iron IIa (it was found in an Iron IIa context) or the Early Iron I (the script looked rather early, so it was dated to the earlier occupation phase). Apparently, the Gath, and, probably, Izbet Sartah inscriptions compared with the Zayit and Gezer inscriptions demonstrate two separate scribal traditions in 10th-9th C BC Western Palestine. The first, demonstrated by the Qeiyafa, Gath, and, probably, Izbet Sartah ostraca, is clearly not derived from the Phoenician cultural sphere from which came the Early Byblian inscriptions (note the G-shaped Lameds!). The second, demonstrated by Gezer and Zayit, clearly is. Perhaps, my guess the Gezer tablet is an Iron I inscription was wrong, and a non-Phoenician early alphabetic script was used in Iron Ages I and IIa, while the Phoenician script was only introduced c. 880 BC.

Canaanites=Assyrian Deportees?

According to Judges 1:27-29, Beth-Shean, Ibleam, Dor, Taanach, Megiddo, and Gezer were inhabited by Canaanites. This instantly caused me to remember the Assyrian administrative centers of Megiddo and Gezer, since Gezer was not particularly Canaanite under the Israelite kings. Dor, of course, was Phoenician. Beth-Shean, however, poses a problem, since it was very sparsely inhabited in the Assyrian era. The others are ambiguous. The list might, therefore, refer to the era of the Israelite kings or the Assyrian era, or might be a combination of the two, but is very unlikely to date to the Assyrian era alone. However, Gezer still remains to me a curious reminder that at least some “Canaanites” of the Deut. Hist. could be Assyrian deportees.

Gezer Calendar of Iron I Date

According to “The Excavation of Gezer“‘s discussion of the find-spot of the Gezer Calendar, it is stated the Calendar was found in the northern part of Macalister’s Trench 8. Looking at this reconstruction of the Omride (“Solomonic”) fortress, Trench 8 (see Excavation of Gezer, Vol. 3) is east of the Omride fortress. Also according to Macalister, the calendar was found in “Fourth Semitic Debris”, apparently of Iron I (Macalister originally dated the Omride Fortress to the Hellenistic Period and the Calendar to the 6th C BC) This would seem to support the Low Chronology of Iron Age pottery and the high chronology of Iron Age inscriptions.

Omride Palestine

This blog post is based on Israel Finkelstein’s discussion about Omride architecture in The Bible Unearthed and this article.

Omride Palestine had two capitals: Jezreel and Samaria.

Samaria was the capital for the descendants of the Iron I Israelite oil-and-wine communities. It was necessarily the primary capital of Israel-located on top of a strategic hill on the Shechem-Tul Karm road, defended well by the terrain, which made it near inaccessible for armies and good for control of the hill country while being close to the agricultural wonderland of the Jezreel. However, Samaria’s terrain is bad for keeping any large amount both foreign and domestic military forces. The royal enclosure of the Hill of Shemer had to be walled up with a casemate wall and filled with dirt to a depth of up to 20 ft. in order for there to be any kind of flat surface on top. A second capital would have to be constructed for military purposes: Jezreel.

Jezreel was a mighty walled rectangular enclosure surrounded by a moat and a casemate wall (not the best sort of fortification, but, then, the Omrides had no real enemies and a state to control), enclosing a total 11 acres. It had a six-chambered gate on its south side. There were several settlements before it (including one from the Early Iron IIA, probably founded by the pre-Omride Israelite monarchy), however, none were as well fortified as that of the Omrides. It was, being located on top of a commanding ridge, and was, therefore, used as a watchtower for traffic in and out of the Beth Shean Valley. A road connected it to Jenin, Ibleam, Dothan, and, through an arduous trek up and down a steep hill, Samaria. It was destroyed by Hazael, but, not too long after that, the site was reinhabited.

Hazor was also rebuilt under the Omrides (for chronology, see here and the two 2004 papers by Herzog and Singer Avitz). The city was extraordinarily small, located entirely on the west side of the old Upper City, but fortified with a casemate wall, with a citadel to the W. A moat was dug to the NE. and E. of the city (F&S, pg. 188). The six-chambered gate was built on top of a large fill to keep it more defensible.

Megiddo-Megiddo was not built by the Omrides, but, as Knauf concluded, was built in by the Omrides. While the city, a descendant of the early Iron IIA Megiddo VB (Shishak’s Megiddo) was unfortified, some kind of gate (whether the six-chambered one or not) was established there. A large Omride palace dominated the southern part of the city, and a mix of houses and palaces were built around the city’s perimeter.

Gezer, too, was rebuilt under the Omrides (it had a tinge of “Ephraimite” influence in the 8th C BC-I would expect it to be in Omride hands). Like in the case of Hazor, the new city was far smaller than the old, and, unlike Hazor, probably not even a city, but a well-stocked military fortress. It had a six-chambered gate on its south end.

As for lesser-excavated sites mentioned by Finkelstein:

En Gev, on the E. shore of the Lake of Kinneret, is not yet well-excavated enough to show any but one sign of Omride architecture, but there is a clear possibility it could have been Omride.

Khirbet ‘Atarus, Mesha’s Ataroth, also provides clear indications of Omride architecture, having a moat on at least two of its sides. According to Finkelstein, an Iron IIa cult place was found there by a dig in 2002.

And, now, we come to the most impressive display of probably Omride fortress-making in Moab: Khirbet al-Mudayna on the Wadi et-Thamad! The most likely site for Mesha’s Jahaz (and, consequently, the Biblical Jahaz), the fortress was built on a high, oval hill (not well flattened by fills) and surrounded by a moat. A six-chambered gate (shown by the square) is visible in the NE. corner. It was peacefully captured by Mesha and the fortress continued in use into the early 8th C BC. It was re-founded in the reign of Josiah and was destroyed by the Babylonians.

This architectural pattern, devised by the first centrally organized state paying tribute to no one in all of Palestine’s history, was one which served as a foundation for the State of Israel. It made a separation between regular civilian cities (Shechem, Megiddo, Tell el Fara’ N.) and cities and citadels used by the government (which included moats, fills, casemates, large amounts of space not permanently occupied, and a very small amount of city gates (usually, as at Hazor and probably Gezer, one). The Omride state clearly had an interest in placing fortresses in rebellious areas and on strategic roads.

In the next installment, I shall analyze the Square Temple Mount and compare and contrast it with these Omride architectural parallels.