44 Aaron A. Burke
fortified centers that existed during the MB II.
The presence of a large number of cemeteries dated to the MB II–III that presumably belonged to the inhabitants of nearby, although often unidentified settlements,
suggests that many of these settle-ments were unfortified and short-lived, perhaps lasting as little as a few decadesduring the MB II–III. Although it is not an easy process to distinguish settlementsfounded in the late MB II from those founded during the MB III, the prevailing po-litical and socioeconomic conditions, which I identify as
, suggest thecontinuation of the MB II settlement trend and associated political organization.
Political Organization and Strategic Defenses
The settlement pattern at the close of the Middle Bronze Age was intrinsically re-lated to the nature of the political organization of the southern Levant. Canaan’spolitical organization at the close of the Middle Bronze Age permits a clearer ar-ticulation of Egypt’s approach to the conquest of Canaan at the start of the NewKingdom and its subsequent approach to the administration of the region. The pre-vailing interpretation of Canaan’s political organization during the MB II–III, whichhas been characterized as that of dozens of independent city-states,
has relied nearlyentirely on the retrojection of the political organization characteristic of Late BronzeAge Canaan as identified from the Amarna letters.
As I have argued, however, thedefensive strategy of the late Middle Bronze Age was inherently dictated by thelargest urban, fortified settlements (i.e., political capitals), which can be identified asthe dominant polities (preferably referred to as
) during the second half of the Middle Bronze Age. This can be inferred from the spatial relationship betweenfirst-tier centers and settlements around them, namely the strategic location of certainsettlement types (discussed below), as well as the considerable labor required in theconstruction of monumental fortifications at small sites.Among the most conspicuous of these political centers were Hazor and Ash-kelon,
but probably others included small centers in the highlands, such as Shechemand Jerusalem.
Ashkelon’s landscape is an excellent case study of the relationshipbetween secondary sites and their political centers. Indeed, it was the settlementpattern and site types of the kingdom of Ashkelon during the MB II–III, which con-
In this article the following terms are used to designate phases of the Middle Bronze Age, re-placing the MB IIA–IIC terminology: MB I (ca. 1900–1700 BC), MB II (ca. 1700–1600), andMB III (ca. 1600–1530 BC). Dates for the reigns of Egyptian pharaohs and their campaignsare based on Kitchen 2000. The LB IA (ca. 1530–1460).
I do not accept the supposition that cemeteries lacking association with conspicuous settle-ments must have belonged to pastoral nomads (contra Gonen 1981, for the Late Bronze Age).The suggestion is problematic given the dense settlement pattern of the urban Middle BronzeAge, which would have required that such cemeteries fell within the territory of one or anotherpolity, and in light of the realization that pastoral nomads were most likely the social relations(i.e., kith and kin) of the inhabitants of MB urban settlements. Indeed, to the extent that anyburials would be identified as those of pastoral nomads they are indistinguishable from thoseof their urban counterparts.
Burke 2008, 100–101.
For discussion, see Burke 2008, 119–121; also Sugerman 2009.
Burke 2008, 117, 125–135.
Burke 2008, 117–119.