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”

Speculations on the fingerprint and lmlk potteries

Over 500 fingerprint-impressed jar handles have been found at Qeiyafa. The second most fingerprint impression-bearing site is Jokneam, with about 15 impressions (overtones of the northern lmlk handles, esp. at Nahal Tut). Overall, fingerprint-impressed jars appear to be found in the Coastal Plain and North (and Tel Beersheba and Beth-Zur). This provides some rather interesting parallels with the much later (~300 years later) lmlk impressions. Like in the case of the fingerprint impressions, most early lmlk impressions were concentrated at a single location in the Shephelah, and were made out of Shephelah clay. The Iron I fingerprint pottery and the Iron IIb lmlk pottery may have been at the same location. However, unlike in the case of the lmlk impressions, very few fingerprint impressions were found in the highlands (none seem to have been found at Gibeon and Jerusalem). So, who controlled the Qeiyafa polity? I suggest the likely candidates are:

1. The Kingdom of Beth-Zur

Beth-Zur was fortified in the Iron I and yielded one or more fingerprint-impressed jar handles. The kingdom ruled from it may be an illusion (i.e., an establishment of the Gibeonites or Jerusalemites) or an actual kingdom ruling over most of the Hebron hills destroyed by Judah or Gibeon (the Philistines are right out).

2. The Kingdom of Socoh or Adullam

-My gut reaction is to look to local explanations for Qeiyafa’s rise. They may be incorrect, but they haven’t been disproven.

3. The Kingdom of Gibeon

This is Finkelstein (and some maximalists)’s choice. He appears to believe believe Gibeon was a large, powerful kingdom ruled by the Saulide dynasty. I buy this. However, unless someone finds a fingerprint impression at Gibeon, I ain’t buying that Gibeon built Qeiyafa. It’s still a possibility.

4. The Kingdom of Jerusalem

-Almost every maximalist’s choice. As Jerusalem isn’t mentioned in Shoshenq I’s list, I ain’t buying it. I have not done thorough research on the Stepped Stone structure (evidence of the succession of the Late Bronze Kingdom of Jerusalem into Saulide times?), but Gibeon and Mahanaim appear far more prominent in Shoshenq’s list than Jerusalem.

In short, someone really needs to analyze the settlement system between the Hebron hills and southern Shephelah in Late Iron I.

Finkelstein Has A New Paper on Qeiyafa

This one is largely a continuation of his older ideas, but does propose some new ones, including that the excavators’ Hellenistic Wall is Ottoman (though Finkelstein agrees the Late Iron I wall is Late Iron I) and that the site’s Period/Stratum III was primarily settled in the Late Persian period (the excavators now accept the stratum’s foundation in the Persian period). He also associates the Qeiyafa Late Iron I wall architectural tradition and some other material features of the site with highland ones, and makes a reasonable case that Qeiyafa might have been built by the Benjaminite Saulide Polity (an interpretation I considered and rejected, even beginning to write a post on why this idea is unlikely), suggesting the battle in 1 Sam 17 preserves genuine memory of Saulide expansion as far as the Elah valley. He then suggests the (very unlikely, considering the lack of RSHB ware) mention of Qeiyafa in Shoshenq I’s list, toponym 11 or 12.

UPDATE (April 10, 2013): I now support Finkelstein’s interpretation of Qeiyafa as Gibeonite-built.

Why Did Hezekiah Not Feel a Threat to the South From Sennacherib

Hezekiah concentrated his defense outside Jerusalem on two sides: the passes to Jerusalem, especially those near the border of Samaria (Gibeon+Mizpah), and the three (four?) fortified cities in the Shephelah (Beth-Shemesh, Lachish, and Azekah, and possibly Socoh). He did not concentrate his defense on the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because Sennacherib had a purpose for taking over Gibeon, Mizpah, and the Shephelah. He did not, however have any clear purpose for taking over the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because the Shephelah made Judah far too politically influential in Philistia for Assyria to allow, and, more importantly, it could be administered by Ashdod and Gaza. Mizpah and Gibeon could be used to stop trade coming to Judah from the Assyrian provinces in the North or be used as springboards to take over the southern part of the province of Samaria. Both could also be administered as unfortified cities within Samaria. The Beersheba Valley, meanwhile, was a vital trade artery, offered very little threat of political influence in Edom or Gaza, and could not be competently administered by any polity except Judah. Exiling the population of the Beersheba Valley would, as Hezekiah likely reasoned, be the last part of Judah Sennacherib would want to attack.

Of course, the Assyrians did end up destroying the Beersheba Valley, probably as a make-work project for Judah, to keep it from growing too strong again any time soon.