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2010 Burke ANE War Ashkelon

2010 Burke ANE War Ashkelon

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Canaan under Siege
The History and Archaeology of Egypt’s War in Canaanduring the Early Eighteenth Dynasty
 Aaron A. Burke
Despite the considerable attention that has been devoted to the study of the end of the Middle Bronze Age, to Late Bronze Age Canaan, and to the development of theNew Kingdom Egyptian Empire in the Levant, a nuanced historical-archaeologicalreconstruction of the opening days of Egyptian imperialism remains lacking. In part,this deficiency is owed to the prerequisites of familiarity with, on the one hand, thehistory, material culture, and settlement patterns of the Levant during both the Mid-dle and Late Bronze Ages and, on the other, with the history of Egypt’s New King-dom campaigns. The dearth of syntheses is also owed to the adherence to entrenchedand outdated models for Canaan’s political organization, which are central to under-standing the changes brought about during this transition period, and the limitedattention devoted to, until recently, the archaeological evidence for Egypt’s inter-vention in and policies toward Canaan. The continued employment of dated con-structs limits our ability to nuance the development of Egypt’s military policy to-ward Canaan over the course of the Late Bronze Age, particularly within the LB IA(ca. 1530–1460 BC). As is argued in this article, these constructs obscure the identi-fication of the material and ideological effects of Egypt’s dominance and the recog-nition of Egypt’s very gradual subjugation and effective balkanization of MiddleBronze Age territorial kingdoms in the southern Levant which began during the LBIA. What follows, therefore, is the result of an attempt to formulate a nuanced his-torical-archaeological reconstruction of Egypt’s early conquests in Canaan by rely-ing not only upon archaeological data from sites and settlement patterns during thetransition between the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (MB III–LB IA), but also touse evidence relating to the nature of Bronze Age warfare and a new perspective onthe evolution of polities in the Levant during this period.
The Close of the Middle Bronze Age
It is widely agreed that during the MB III (ca. 1600–1530 BC) the southern Levantcontinued the settlement trend begun during the MB II and that it was characterizedby a process known as settlement infilling, which resulted in the presence of agreater number of smaller settlements scattered across the landscape between larger
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
Pax Amoritica
, 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.
Dever 1987.
For discussion, see Burke 2008, 119–121; also Sugerman 2009.
Burke 2008, 117, 125–135.
Burke 2008, 117–119.
Canaan under Siege 45
stituted a well defined defensive strategy,
that became one of the foci of Egypt’searly efforts to subdue the region as argued below. Although in no single territoryare all of these settlement types in evidence, owing to the exigencies of archaeologi-cal exploration, the defensive strategy employed appears to have focused on a set-tlement network comprised of sites of varying sizes and functions. Settlementsranged from large fortified centers like Hazor and Ashkelon (> 50 ha) to smallerfortified settlements, unfortified villages including those of less than 0.2 ha in size,fortresses, watchtowers, and rural agricultural estates or farmsteads.
Along majorroad networks, for example, a series of towers (
), were erected to provideadvanced warning of approaching threats and to protect caravans that plied theoverland road and its tributaries between Aleppo and Avaris.
These towers aretoday identified by means of toponyms deriving from the Arabic term
, andno fewer than sixty such sites can be identified in the Levant that are predominantlyof late Middle and Late Bronze Age date (ca. 1700–1200 BC).In addition to the evidence for settlement hierarchy and a variety of settlementtypes, other lines of evidence support the identification of a period of political or-ganization in Canaan that was dominated by large territorial kingdoms like Hazorand Ashkelon. Around Ashkelon, the spatial relationship of second-tier fortifiedcenters reveals their location at one-day’s travel by foot throughout the coastal plain(Figure 1). Not only is this relationship meaningful because it is reflective of thepotential sphere of Ashkelon’s immediate political control, but the location of itssecondary and tertiary fortified settlements, which fall along an average distance of 30 km (between 25 and 33 km) from Ashkelon, reveals the employment of a consis-tent defensive strategy, which is characterized by the construction of rectilinear de-fensive layouts known during the MB II throughout the Levant.
The considerableeffort required to defend these smaller sites ranging from 1.5 to 22 ha in size alsosupports the recognition of a political hierarchy that was able to muster the resourcesneeded to construct defenses at even the smallest of these sites, such as Timnah andTel Sera‘. Within this context, the Middle Bronze Age palaces identified at ‘Ajjuland Lachish are recognized to be most likely the residences of provincial governors(e.g., OB
). Thus, these second-tier centers, which were obviously orientedwith a focus outward from Ashkelon, served Ashkelon’s effort to administer its hin-terland and the routes leading from its territory through the coastal plain and into thehighlands to the east.
Burke 2008, 81.
Burke 2008, 122–125.
Burke 2007.
Burke 2008, 81.

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