Israel Finkelstein Paper on Late Bronze Collapse Four Times as Good as I Thought

Paper here.

Firstly, Finkelstein, Litt, and Langgut’s findings from the Sea of Galilee show that there was an intense dry period in Canaan between c. 1250 BC (when Hazor fell) and c. 1100 BC or just before (when Canaan experienced a baby boom). Secondly, the authors show that these findings can also be connected with the peak of the so-called “Minoan Warming” in this graph. Thirdly, the authors show that all the textual evidence supports their hypothesis that the 14th century BC was a wet period with no known major droughts while the 13th-12th centuries BC were a dry period with many known major droughts. The authors, however, show no real evidence of “economic and demographic decline” in Canaan in the Late Bronze IIB-III, which they claim occurred. Though Hazor, Bethel, and Shechem did lose their city-state status in the 13th century BC (Bethel later than the other two), I find the claim that either the population or economy of Canaan declined during the 13th century BC to be dubious.

Paradoxically, Finkelstein flip-flops again on the date of the beginning of Israelite settlement, placing it in the midst of the drought instead of, as he did in 2006, after the end of it. If cities like Megiddo, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Lachish, and Azekah could prosper in the Late Bronze IIB, so they could trade imported Egyptian grain with the nomads Finkelstein claims settled down during this era. It is doubtful that Israelite settlements in the Late Bronze IIB-III could survive the coercive power of Egyptian soldiers and taxmen. Like Todd Bolen and Israel Finkelstein in 2006, I see no evidence Israelite settlement predates the collapse of Egyptian rule in Canaan. In any case, it is impossible that “demographic decline” (which probably didn’t happen) could somehow spur a settlement boom in the highlands of Canaan.

My Reconstruction of the Qeiyafa ‘Palace-Fort’

Based on Luke Chandler’s photo. We’ll see how the architectural plans compare to my reconstruction.
I am, of course, reminded by the Lachish Lateral Access Podium palace-fort, which had three stages of construction. The Qeiyafa palace-fort probably will, when further uncovered, be revealed as a Lateral Access Podium structure. The suggestion in the comments at the Chandler post that the Qeiyafa palace-fort is a Bit-Hilani is probably incorrect; these are characterized by their prominent entrances. The plan of the building reminds me of the Omride Megiddo Palace 6000 and the Hazor and Bethsaida LAP structures. In LAP structures, the first floor tended to be filled with storerooms while the residence was located on the second floor. I expect the rooms in the Qeiyafa palace-fort to be interpreted by the excavators as storage facilities, as they sure look like they are from over here.

Lachish, Mareshah, and Beit Guvrin

Throughout the ages, from the Early Bronze Age even unto today, there has always been a tendency for an important regional center in the Lachish-Mareshah-Beit Guvrin area to exist. This is due to the need for a transportation route between the Coastal Plain and Hill Country and the rich resources the soil of the Southern Shephelah has to offer (olives in the East and grain in the West). In the Early Bronze Age (and probably earlier; in the Chalcolithic) the town of Lachish existed as a chief center in this area. However, as the only major center in the Hill Country in the Early Bronze Age was et-Tell, This center was shifted to Area 1500, somewhere on the ridge to the north-west of Lachish, in the Intermediate Bronze. In the Middle Bronze (Stratum VIII), Lachish revived again, building a city wall and fosse. The city was destroyed in the 16th C BC, and inside the fosse was built the famous Fosse Temple, which would survive down to the last days of Ramesses II. Lachish was destroyed and rebuilt in the late 13th-early 12th C BC, and, after that, imported some Midianite Ware, and had a temple built on the acropolis. Due to the border/coastal conquest effect described below, it did not recover until the Judahite reconquest of the Shephelah in the late 9th century BC. Lachish remained the second most-important city of Judah until it was destroyed and probably annexed to Gaza in 701 BC. Lachish was reconstructed whenever Judah re-annexed the Shephelah, and was destroyed in 588-6 BC.

After 588-6 BC, the entire area to the south of En Gedi, Nezib, and Beth-Zur was given to the Kingdom of Edom, which apparently later became a province (in 551 BC). Lachish, in the fourth century BC, during a period of Egyptian independence, became an important administrative settlement in the north-western part of this province. During the Early Hellenistic period, only a shrine was apparently left at Lachish, while the chief administrative center in the area moved to Mareshah. It is not clear as, whether Fantalkin suggests, Lachish’s administrative role was removed immediately after the Persian reconquest of Egypt in 343 BC or near the beginning of the Hellenistic period.

Mareshah remained a thriving Early Hellenistic provincial capital mostly focused on oil production until 108 BC, when it was destroyed by John Hyrcanus. Eventually, in the Herodian period, Beit Jibrin, a ruin located just to the SE of modern Beit Guvrin, became the chief city of the southern Shephelah. By the time of Septimius Severus, this had become Eleutheropolis, a district center which sprouted some major Late Roman ruins just to the South of the Tell of Beit Jibrin. Beit Jibrin’s Roman ruins were abandoned sometime after the Islamic conquest, and the town continued until its demolition by the Israelis in 1948.

Today, the regional center I have described above does not exist for largely the same reasons as in the early 7th century BC and in the 11th C BC-after a destructive war, most of the Shephelah was annexed by a polity based primarily on the coastal plain. This state will undoubtedly continue for the next few decades.

Concentric Circles on Sennacherib’s Clothing

Being inspired by George Grena’s out-of-context picture of concentric circles of Sennacherib’s clothes on his “Theories” page, I decided to take a few of my own images of these circles using the BBC’s version of the Lachish relief (the most detailed version I have found on the web so far!).


Adjusted for best view:

Best Grayscale image of the above picture:

The above images indicate that concentric circles (which are found incised into late 8th and early 7th C BC Judahite jar handles, in almost all cases after the jar’s firing, and in probably all cases in the early-mid 7th century BC) were used a royal motif. Since they fit in modestly well with the Judahite government’s long-standing (at least 20-year old) tradition of using solar imagery on jar handles and roughly half of concentric circle marks are found on lmlk-impressed handles, though lmlk handles make up only a tenth of Iron IIB handles, it seems likely that these concentric circle marks were the Manassite Judahite government’s way to continue the old lmlk system without making new jars.  Other theories should be discounted; the distribution of these handles do not correspond at all to the list of Levitical cities (except for Gibeon) for the limited chronological distribution of these marks argues against any broad non-governmental purpose (e.g. marking old wine or the inaccuracy of a fired jar). The concentric circle marks are likely not cancellation marks of any sort, as they are found on non-stamped lmlk-type handles. Rather, the abundance of these marks at Ramat Rahel/Beth-Haccerem, the Assyrian governor’s residence for Judah (64 out of 317) shows that they were likely used as tax jars.

The LMLK Map, Lapidarist Edition

Above: A map of Lapidarist lmlk impressions. Blue is Hebron, Orange is Ziph, Green is MMST, and Maroon are those with eroded inscriptions.

The concentration of Lapidarist lmlk impressions at Lachish as compared with any other city in Judah is simply staggering (248 at Lachish v. 16 at the next most Lapidarist lmlk impression-bearing site, Beth-Shemesh). Lachish is clearly the second capital of Judah in this period. The above map confirms my point that every piece of pottery at Ramat Rahel was brought there in the 7th C BC or later. The percentage of lmlk Hebron impressions seems to have slightly decreased at Lachish due to the rise of Socoh, but seems to have increased everywhere else. Socoh appears to have replaced Ziph in this phase. While I briefly thought to myself after seeing this map that have there might have been a redistricting of the southern Hill Country when the Socoh lmlk impressions were introduced, I found this to be unlikely due to the fact that in the Cursory phase, Ziph impression incidence seemed to be largest in southern Greater Benjamin and was rather modest at Lachish, while the situation with Socoh is, as one can see, quite different. I also have doubts whether Rabud/Debir (a fortified city of the Hill Country bearing only one M4L impression) was a part of the Socoh district before its destruction in 701 BC.

The distribution of MMSTs is extremely limited in this phase. Eleven M4Ls are known, five of them provenanced. While MMST distribution was already extremely limited during the Cursory phase, in this phase MMST impressions don’t even appear at Jerusalem, and the provenanced MMSTs were found in five major Judahite cities, each in separate areas of Judah (the southern Shephelah, middle Shephelah, Greater Benjamin, and the Hill Country). A probable M4L was also found (somewhat bizarrely) at Beitin, the probable site of the Israelite cult site of Bethel, just N. of of Judah. The distribution of the M4Ls is not just random; it seems to be almost deliberately atypical.

This map also helps demonstrate the likelihood of lmlk Socoh to be the southern Socoh, not the Elah Socoh. Let us take a look at the same map with labels:

Clearly, if lmlk Socoh was Elah Socoh, the Beth-Shemites would have had to have had a very strong distaste for Socoh products, while Azekah and Lachish would have had to have had a far less strong dislike of these same products. If lmlk Socoh was the southern Socoh, the small amount of Socohite products at Beth-Shemesh would simply be explained as a product of its distance from Socoh!

In other news, I experimented with making a jar-mark video (with maps), but it would have to be several minutes long for one to fully see the variance between the distributions of the different phases of jar-marks.

“The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” and the Date of the Rosette Jar-Marks

The “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” was a concept developed in the late 1980s which, in effect, argues for a revival of Judah in the E. and S. largely due to Manasseh’s integration of Judah into the New Assyrian Order, even though the Shephelah never fully regained its population until the Hasmonean era. Thus, Tel Goren (ancient En Gedi) Str. V, Tel ‘Ira VII, Tel ‘Aroer III, and the Wilderness district sites in Judah (Tabaq, Samrah, Maqari, Feshkha, Qumran, Ghuweir) would all begin in the early to mid-7th C BC, in the days of King Manasseh (697-643 BC). The Arabian trade and Shephelah refugees are important components in this historical reconstruction. The rebuilding of Azekah and Lachish in the Shephelah is also an important part of the “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh”. My placement of the Rosette jar-marks in the Assyrian, rather than, as Oded Lipschits does, post-Assyrian period, is sufficient, though not necessary, evidence for the acceptance of this Manassite paradigm.

The evidence for the Manassite paradigm from the finds in the Negev is rather clear: while two lmlk handles were found in Stratum VIII of Arad (destroyed in 701 BC), three were found in Stratum VII. Thus, Arad VII was built in the early 7th C BC, when lmlk jars were still in use. Likewise, four late (“Divided Inscription”) lmlk handles were found at Lachish, thus suggesting it was built some years before (though certainly not too long before!) lmlk jar use ended. Lipschits’s suggestion that Josiah built the Ramat Rahel Va citadel/palace is simply bizarre: why build a 70×47 meter citadel two miles (just within viewing distance) outside the capital and use it as a storehouse when your capital is already fortified and has a great royal palace and storehouses already in use? Na’aman’s interpretation of Ramat Rahel Va as an Assyrian Governor’s Residence is far more plausible. In general, the situation with the Rosette marks is much better placed in the Assyrian than Josianic period. Since the Rosette system is inherently connected with the beginning of Ramat Rahel Va (which probably represents a new phase of Assyrian administration in Judah), and it is likely the preceding Ramat Rahel Vb was also an Assyrian residence (if it was built before 701 BC, it would certainly be emptied by the time Sennacherib began his Shephelah operations) we may suppose Ramat Rahel Va, Lachish II, and Iron IIc Azekah were built either in the reign of Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal. While the latter two may have been built later than the establishment of Ramat Rahel Va and the Rosette system due to the fortification system at Lachish being such an integral part of its administration and the modest amount of Rosette impressions there compared to Jerusalem and Ramat Rahel, a date in the reign of Ashurbanipal or Esarhaddon is still likely, and the fortification system(s?), paralleled by that of Ekron, might have been considered necessary by the Assyrians to defend Palestine against Egypt.

Thus, it seems likely that Judah already revived to almost its Josianic state by the time of Amon.

The Lachish letters!

The Lachish letters are ostraca written in preparation for Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of the fortified cities of Judah  found in the city gate of Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish), sent from a nearby city which sent Letter 5 to Lachish because it could not see the signal-lights of Azekah (probably, from that statement, in the area of Mareshah). The letters helped prove Lachish wad at Tell ed-Duweir and that searching for it around Umm Lakis and Umm Ajlan (near Tell el-Hesi) was utterly fruitless. They also confirmed and added to Jeremiah’s statement about Lachish and Azekah (Jer 34:7)