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”

Jim West Gets Mentioned by the BBC, Israel Finkelstein Publishes Some Articles Online

I’m telling you, folks, if you wish to be kept up to speed in the world of archaeology as it relates to the Bible, create a Google alert for yourself on Israel Finkelstein. Today (word coming from Jim West), Israel Finkelstein has published some papers of his online.

The first, on Amarna Shechem, is from 2005, and thus, fairly recent, utilizing the petrographic examination of the Amarna letters done by Goren. It analyzes the rise of the Omrides as interpreted by the rise of an earlier Shechem-area based polity, that of Shechem under Labayu. It was superseded by Finkelstein’s paper on Saul being the “Last Labayu”. The only disagreeable remark I can find in there is the mention of Dor being definitely Israelite in the 8th C BC (on page 183), ignoring the possibility it might have been Phoenician.

The second, on the campaign of Shoshenq I, is outdated (my video is up-to date), describing Shoshenq I as attempting to destroy, rather than encourage, the Masos-Nahas copper network. It is also a useful example of Finkelstein In Transition on his opinions on which stratum at Megiddo corresponds to Shoshenq I’s Megiddo. In this paper, he views “Early IrIIa” Masos II as partially contemporary with “Late Iron I” Megiddo VIA. Finkelstein also presents his “Shoshenq destroyed Saulide Gibeon” hypothesis he more clearly presents in “Last Labayu”.

The third, on “The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh“, is a Finkelstein classic. He points out the decline of the Judahite population from over 120,000 in c. 705 BC to under 70,000 in c. 605 BC, the utter lack of full recovery in the Shephelah, and the rise in population in the Negev, Hill Country, Benjamin, and Wilderness. He also points out the Arabian trade and Ekron IC as factors in the recovery of Judah under Manasseh. He does not accept there is any good evidence for a Manassite revival of the Shephelah.

In other news, Jim West, biblioblogger extraordinaire, has been mentioned by the BBC.

The Ebal Altar

The Mount Ebal “altar” (PRECISELY 32°14’22.40″N, 35°17’15.89″E, AND NOWHERE ELSE) was an Middle Iron Age structure. According to Israel Finkelstein, its pottery is Middle Iron I, around 1050-1035 BC. Even though it contains a Ramesside scarab, the structure’s pottery is 11th, not 13th/12th century BC, and, therefore, cannot be Joshua’s altar mentioned in Joshua 8:30.

Sychar and Shechem

Let me get this straight: Shechem (Tell Balata) was destroyed by the Hasmoneans in 108 BC and never seriously inhabited again. The Sychar of John 4:5 might certainly be named after Shechem, but is not Shechem itself. Since Jacob’s Well (32°12’34″N, 35°17’7″E) was near Sychar, Sychar should be sought east or southeast of Tel Balata, near Jacob’s well. The modern village of ‘Askar, was, due to its copious spring, not the village intended. It was, however, certainly the Sychar of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux (Early Byzantine Period),  supporting the idea this was the Sychar of John. However, John 4:15 and John 4:5 together prove Sychar’s only water supply was Jacob’s well.