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The Archaeology of Palestine from the Neolithic through the Middle Bronze Age

G. Ernest Wright
Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 91, No. 2. (Apr. - Jun., 1971), pp. 276-293.
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Fri Feb 29 21:43:12 2008



These three fascicules of CAHZwere written by two of the most distinguished figures in
Near Eastern archaeology. Their surveys span a period of over 5000 years. The nature of
the treatment of the various periods is examined and the general agreements which have
been reached are summarized. Particular attention is paid, however, to the areas where
problems exist. At critical junctions what may be termed minority viewpoints were adopted
by the authors, even though eloquently expressed and defended in the literature. I t seemed
worth the effort, therefore, to discuss those areas in every period where alternate solutions
to specific problems are not only possible, but are held by a variety of people. Some different
viewpoints are defended on the basis of new data and bibliography. Among such problems
are the sequence of cultures in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, how to interpret and
label the material in the era leading up to the full urbanism of the third millennium, the
chronology, data and terminology of the period between ca. 2300 and 1550 B.c., etc.


provide us with 117 pages of text and bibliography which summarize what is known about the
archaeology of Palestine (mainly the land occupied by Israel, but in the work of de Vaux that
also by Jordan) from ca. 8000 to 1550 B.C. This,
of course, involves a radical compression of data.
The usefulness of such a survey, then, depends
completely upon the good judgment of the writers
in what to include and what to exclude, and in
their insight and skill in generalization to extract
from the data an overall picture of the country
in the periods in question.
With such a tight limitation placed upon an
author it is obvious that learning and judgment
go hand in hand and that such a procedure will
produce occasional masterpieces on the one hand
and, on the other, pieces which do not do justice
to what is known so that other sources must be
To the first category clearly belong the two
chapters on the early periods by de Vaux. Here
we have the work of a master, who not only dili* R . de Vaux, O.P., Palestine During the Xeolithic and
Chalcolithic Periods and Palestine in the E a r l y Bronze Age
(Cambridge Ancient History, revised ed., Fasc. 47 and 46,
1966 [Vol. I , Chap. IX(b) and Chap. XV]; and Kathleen
PI. Kenyon, Palestine in the ,T!iiddle Bronze ilge (ibid.,
Fasc. 48, 1966 [Vol. 11, Chap. 1111.

gently collects all important material known up

to the time of writing (ca. 1964-1965), but displays it with such insight and skill that one is
given an immediate and clear impression of the
cultural situation, both its highlights and its
shadows, in the country's first period, from villages
to cities, from the Neolithic revolution through
the initial period of the urban revolution.
Before the appearance of these two fascicules,
I would have recommended without hesitation
Emmanuel Anati's Palestine Before the Hebrews
(1963) as the best general introduction. Without
downgrading the value of Anati's work, I believe
that de Vaux's seventy-seven pages are the best
and most authoritative brief introduction now
available. Of course, Palestine should not be,
and cannot be, understood without its whole
Near Eastern context; and anthropologists in
particular have been producing excellent literature on the subject of the Neolithic revolution,
even though each treatment is outdated in detail
before it can be published.'
Xmong the pioneering works which focus on the fresh
perspectives, one might cite Robert J. Braidwood, T h e
Xear East and the Foundations of Civilization (1952);
Robert Redfield, T h e Primitzve World and its Transformation (1953); Braidwood and Willey, Courses Toward
U r b a n L i f e (1962), etc. Yet for the latter part of the
period one can get no satisfactory picture from the an-


Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age

I. For the Seolithic and Chalcolithic periods de
Vaux divides his treatment into three sections.
The first is "Hunters and Farmers" (Sections
I-V of his chapter); the second is "Farmers and
Potters" (Section VI) ; and third, "Farmers,
Potters and Metal Workers" (Section VII). A
final very brief section (VIII) provides a brief
treatment of the "Megalithic Culture." This is a
very logical division of the material, having to do
with the first settlements in pre-Pottery Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic and the Chalcolithic
Period when the first metal appeared.
A major difficulty with the Palestine bridge
between Asia and Africa is to know when the
term "Chalcolithic" should be applied to the
country. I t is clear that in Anatolia and in Mesopotamia copper first appears to have been used as
early as at least the second half of the 5th millennium (Tell Halaf). As for Israel and Jordan
we have no actual knowledge of the use of copper
before about the third quarter of the 4th millennium in the Ghassulian-Beersheba culture. De
Vaux appears to be inclined not to introduce the
term "metal working" (Chalcolithic) until we
have actual evidence. As will be noted below,
however, there is a 2500-year period between
about 6000 and 3500 B.C. when little is known
from any large samplings of material about the
country. That metal probably appeared later in
this part of the Fertile Crescent than in the
northern areas seems certain. Therefore, the
choice of when to introduce the term Chalcolithic
either rests upon data taken from the north or is
thropologists alone. Here one needs to read W. F. Albright, From the Stone ilge to Christianity (1940; Anchor
Books ed. 1957), Chap. 111; Henri Frankfort, The Birth
of Civilization i n the Near East (1951; Anchor Books,
1956); and such pioneering articles as Thorkild Jacobsen's "Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia,"
J S E S , Vol. I1 (1943), pp. 159-172; and "Early Political
Developments in ltesopotamia," Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, X.F. 18 (1957), pp. 91-140. The two most important
early Neolithic villages known from the 7th-6th millennia B.C. are, of course, Jericho, in occupied Jordan, and
Catal Huyiik in the Cilician Plain of Turkey. The first
is not adequately known as yet from publication, but see
K . M. Kenyon, Digging up Jericho (1957), and Archaeology and the Holy Land (1960). For the second see James
Rlellaart, catal H u y u k (New York, 1967).


a fairly arbitrary decision. Most scholars today

simply refer to the 4th millennium in Palestine
as Chalcolithic, whereas pre-Pottery Neolithic
would be 8th-7th millennia, while Pottery Neolithic would be 6th-5th millennia. These appear
to be approximations which de Vaux also uses,
except for the fact that "Chalcolithic" in his view
should not be used until the metal is actually
known in the country-that is, ca. 3500 B.C.
We know from such sites as ~ E y n a n (cEin
Mallaha) in the Upper Jordan Valley, and from
the Nahal Oren (Wadi Fellah) in the Carmel
range, that the first sickle blades and the first
attempts at simple round huts on terraces with
impermanent tops took place in the 10th and 9th
millennia, a transition period between the Paleolithic and Neolithic Periods. The Neolithic began
with the first real villages in which hunting and
farming together were the main features of the
economy. This would involve the introduction of
simple agriculture and the domestication of certain animals. De Vaux's review of the evidence
need not be repeated here. However, he does
point to something not commonly realized and
that is the complexity of the evidence which we
have. Up to this time the microlithic Natufian
Culture was considered to belong to the transitional period while, as first established by Ren6
Neuville, the dominant flint industry of the Neolithic Period was Tahunian. De Vaux points out
that pre-Pottery Seolithic A and B have a flint
industry that seems more akin to the Natufian
while the Tahunian is evident only in pre-Pottery
Seolithic B; that is, in the second phase during
the 7th millennium. He believes that this industry
is largely confined to the southern part of the
country and to the Transjordan Desert. The
remarkable site of Beidha and others in southern
Transjordan, as shown by the excavation of
Diana Kirkbride, would appear to be more
oriented toward the desert since arrowheads are
present while sickle blades are rare. That is to
say, as the evidence is accumulated in more
detail for the period, a considerable regional
variation may indeed be present, as also a variety
of groups of people who are not all on the same


Jour?zal of the American Orie~ztalSociety, 91.9 (1371)

technological level-something which has always

been the case in the Near East to this day.
I t is important to stress with de Vaux that the
introduction of pottery, while it is a convenient
dividing line for archaeologists, actually involves
no basic cultural change. There is simply the
addition of pottery vessels to the former group
of stone, reed basket and leather materials, used
for the variety of purposes which a farming
community needed. The basic problem of the
Pottery Xeolithic Period is that we have no
consecutive sequences of architecture or of artifacts which cover the period between f60003500 B.C. All we have is a large number of deposits from various places and the problem is
how to arrange them in any coherent order.
Without stratigraphy it simply cannot be done
with certainty. As a result, there is a large difference of opinion as to the range and dating of the
various groupings. I think de Vaux is right in
suggesting that the earliest range is a rarely
found dark-faced burnished ware, with or without
incisions. Sherds of this ware shown me by Dr.
Prausnitz of Israel's Department of Antiquities,
for example, from Sheikh Ali (Tell ~ E l i )in the
Jordan Valley, remind one very strongly of the
lowest ranges of the Braidwood Amuq pottery in
Syria (Phases A and B) .2
I n 1936 Ben-Dor distinguished two early pottery layers at Jericho, Levels I X and VIII. The
exposure was perhaps too small to yield as clear a
picture of each phase as is necessary for comparative work. In the Kenyon excavations at Jericho
between 1952 and 1958, these phases are labeled
Pottery Xeolithic h and B, but from what has
been said in preliminary publications thus far
one gains the impression that stratification between the two was not at all clear in the places
where Kenyon found the material. Hence, the
separation of Pottery Neolithic A and B at
Jericho seems to have been largely typological.
This leads de Vaux to the assumption that Pottery Neolithic A means coarse wares, while B
2 K . J. Braidwood and L. S. Braidwood, Excacations i n
the Plain of Antioch, T'ol. I . The Earlier dssemhlages,
Phases A-J (Chicago, 1960).

refers to finer wares. Hence, both may belong to

the same period (p. 17), or they belong to a
development in which the later phase may be
introduced by a culture which scholars have
generally assumed to be Chalcolithic; it was discovered at Shacar ha-Golan and has been called
Yarmukian. Whether the Yarmukian is to be
termed a Seolithic or Chalcolithic culture depends on the considerations outlined above.
Yet with regard to Jericho I X and VIII of
Ben-Dor, this reviewer, knowing the latter's
care in his archaeological work, does not believe
that they can be easily dismissed. Renamed
Pottery Neolithic A and B is quite satisfactory
as long as the proper hesitations are introduced
regarding the use of the term "Chalcolithic." I n
any case, this reviewer is inclined to agree with
de Vaux that there may well be a gap at Jericho
between pre-Pottery Xeolithic B and the introduction of pottery in Pottery Seolithic A. Yet I
would go on from this point and insist that prePottery Neolithic B, or Ben-Dor's Jericho VIII,
is indeed a separate element or cultural phase,
though its precise characteristics can only be
determined by further discovery. I t is the opinion
of this reviewer, not only from the literature, but
also from frequent trips to both Jordan and
Israel beginning in 1956, in which an attempt
has been made to keep abreast of the developments in the pre-history of the area, that much
more can be done to place the various more or
less isolated groups of material from a variety of
sites into some sort of approximate sequence,
even though the state of our knowledge is such
that each new discovery may revise a part of any
such attempt at synthesis.
The one person whose work has been uniformly
neglected by nearly all people concerned with the
period is that of Jacob Kaplan of the Tel-AvivYafo Museum. His work in the vicinity of TelAviv, in the Sorek Valley area, and in a large
number of places in Galilee, where he has worked
in particular vith discoveries of Kibbutzim, in
each of which there is one or more amateur archaeologists, is not well knom-n because it has not
been described in detail in any one place.
The result of this work is a series of strati-

WRIGHT:Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age

27 9

graphical sequences in a variety of places which

can be dovetailed together, a t least in preliminary
fashion. The first review of his conclusions is to be
found in his article on the "Neolithic Pottery of
Palestine," in BASOR 156 (1959), pp. 1.5 ff. As
a result of his continued work on the problem in
the 1960's, he would now introduce certain revisons in detail of his projection. One major
article, published with the aid of the Semitic
hluseum of Harvard University, is " ~ E i nel-Jarba,
Chalcolithic Remains in the Plain of Esdraelon,"
BASOR 194 (1969), pp. 2-39. In his dovetailed
sequences, based upon work in a sizeable number
of sites, the Ghassulian-Beersheba culture is always the latest. Preceding it is a phase which he
called the Wadi Rabah culture, something new
except for Kaplan's discovery of it in a number of
places. The second of the two articles noted
above describes it in some detail, but its beauty
must be seen to be believed. At its best it is a
pottery with a highly polished red surface, often
shading into dark grays or blacks. This is a handmade pottery and in technique, though not in
pottery shapes, reappears in the post-Ghassulian
gray-burnished and red-slipped wares at the end
of the 4th milennium, and again in the Khirbet
Kerak pottery of the mid-3rd millennium. BenDor's Jericho VIII (Kenyon's Pottery Neolithic
B) appears to be its latest or debased phase.
Preceding the Wadi Rabah pottery is the series of
impressed wares, often burnished but also unburnished, and then painted wares, preceded by
the dark-faced burnished material. The sequence
from late to early would thus appear somewhat
as follows: Ghassul/Beersheba, Jericho VIII
(Kenyon's Pottery Neolithic B), Wadi Rabah,
Yarmukian, Jericho I X (Kenyon's Pottery Neolithic A), and earlier Neolithic assemblies a t Kfar
Giladi and Sheikh cAli, among other sites.3 A

carbon-14 determination on charcoal from the

earliest of four strata at Wadi Rabah gave
3740 f 140 B.C. This falls nicely in the sequence
of carbon 14 determinations from the Ghassulian/
Beersheba culture which range 3640
350 B.C.
to 3310 f.300 B.C.
De Vaux's summary of the type of culture of
the period which can be observed in the country
would seem to be quite accurateS4The land of
Israel and Jordan must have been thickly occupied
by a variety of groups living in small villages, all
unfortified. Added to de Vaux's description should
be the observation of the nature of the Jordan
Valley at the time by Nelson Glueck, following
his surveys. Of particular importance and interest
in the Jordan Valley are the large number of very
small settlements, rising above the valley floor,
scarcely more than a meter in height and which
are rapidly disappearing as a result of increased
agricultural use of the valley with more modern
p l o ~ s Marginal
settlement areas like those of the
Beersheba area and a variety of discoveries along
the Wadi Ghazzeh indicate an extension of a
considerable population into and beyond the
8-inch rainfall area. I t can only be stressed again,
however, that in contrast to the situation in
RiIesopotamia and in Syria, our knowledge is
spotty with no stratigraphy covering the whole
11. I t appears that carbon-14 dates for the Ghassulian/Beersheba culture are sufficiently plentiful
to cause all scholars to agree on the approximate
dates. Hence, at the outside, the date for this
culture would be 36th to the 33rd century, or
approximately 3rd quarter of the 4th millennium,
as previously stated. A fine temple discovered
and excavated by a team headed by B. RIazar on
a bluff above CEin Gedi, a spectacular group of
over 400 copper objects, including more than 200

See further J. Kaplan, "Excavations a t Wadi

Rabah," IEJ, Val. 8 (1958), pp. 149-160-a site in the
Sorek Valley; "Excavations a t Teluliyot Batashi in the
Vale of Sorek," Eretz Israel, Vol. 5 (1958), pp. 9-24 (Hebrew, with English summary); "Excavations a t Benei
Beraq, 1951," IEJ, Vol. 13 (1963), pp. 300-312. The important contributions of J . Perrot and H . de Contenson,
among others, must remain untouched in this review for

lack of space; they are cited by de Vaux, but note now

Perrot's useful summary of the data and his interpretations of i t in "Prkhistoire palestinienne," Supplement a u
Dictionnaire de la Bible (1968). Note E . D . Stockton, "A
Bibliography of Flint Industries of Transjordan,"
Levant, Vol. I (1969), pp. 100-103 with map.
For additional insights and generalizations see Kaplan, "Ein el-Jarba . . .," o p . cit., esp. pp. 27-31.


Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91.2 (1971)

maceheads, plus a number of peculiar objects that

appear to be some kind of "crown" and ornamented heads for rods or wands and maces,
clearly suggest a religious significance for the objects. The remarkable star painting and other wall
painting at Ghassul proper, north of the Dead
Sea, not far from the eastern hills of Transjordan,
and the ossuaries for secondary burial along the
coastal plain, most numerous in the area of TelAviv, are perhaps the most spectacular objects of
this culture. Yet as de Vaux remarks, it is certainly
a culture of a people unrelated to those who
followed them. He suggests that they are a broadheaded people of Armenoid or hnatolian origin.
This would account for the metalwork which is a
dominant new feature of the culture. Then suddenly the sites are abandoned, and there is simply
no knowledge at this time of the reason for the
abandonment, other than a surmise about displacement by a more vigorous people who lead us
directly into urbanism.
At this point the information that we have is
not sufficient to solve completely the problem of
the transition from the Chalcolithic to what is
called the "Early Bronze Age," the latter a
conventional title because true Bronze seems not
to be known until the 2nd millennium. I n 1937
the reviewer was able to put together all the
evidence at the time in a dissertation entitled
The Pottery of Palestine From the Earliest Times
to the End of the Early Bronze Age (1937).5 At
that time it was very clear that in northern
Palestine a new element had come down from the
north, now known certainly to be from central
Anatolia, and called "the gray-burnished ware."
This is a handmade pottery, the characteristic
shape of which in its earliest form is a shallow
bowl with a sinuous ridge or with knobs around
the middle of the exterior. However, we also
know that it appears along with a new redburnished tradition, uncharacteristic of the
Ghassulian. I n general, therefore, there appears
especially in northern Palestine a highly lustrous
pottery in the tradition of the earlier Wadi Rabah
Reprinted and available from University Microfilms,
Ann -4rbor.

and of the later Khirbet Kerak wares in technique,

though not in shapes. In 1936-37 I named this
culture the "Esdraelon Ware" and placed it in
the "upper" or "late" Chalcolithic, and dated it
from about 3400-3200/3100 B.C.
I assumed at that time that it was accidental
that this culture was only found in the north and
that in due course it would appear also in the
south. The earliest elements at that time in the
south, following Ghassul, were dominated by a
band-painted tradition on a variety of new shapes
rvhich had been found by FitzGerald in his Strata
VII-VI at Jericho in 1936, well known from
Ophel, Tomb 3, and from three sizeable tombs at
Ai, as well as in tombs at Gezer. This bandpainted southern tradition I correlated with
certain northern strata for the introduction of
Early Bronze I proper, dateable in the Gerzean
or Late pre-Dynastic Period of Egypt. Chronologically, following the low date for the 1st
Dynasty, I dated the period with Albright about
the 32nd century to f2900 B.C. I n the fall of
1956 this reviewer began a fresh survey of the
period in question on a grant from the American
Philosophical Society, paying special attention to
the tombs and "late Chalcolithic" layer at Tell
el-Farcah, northeast of Shechem, and especially
to the results of the AIellaart survey of the
Jordan Valley in preparation for the 200-meter,
East Ghor irrigation canal. As a result of this detailed survey of all the material available to me
in 1956, I prepared an article, "The Problem of
the Transition Between the Chalcolithic and
Early Bronze Age in Palestine," Eretz Israel, Vol.
5 (1958), pp. 37* ff. I t had now become clear to
me that the high-polished gray- and red-burnished
tradition was set in the midst of a pottery context
which in many particulars had received impulses
from the Ghassulian, though it was new and
vigorous with its new elements. The pottery continuations included a certain type of plain ledge
handle that appeared in the Ghassulian, certain
jar forms, including the hole-mouth, and a large
variety of smalI lug-handles and decorated
strengthening devices of ropes of clay around the
various vessels. These characteristics all appear a t
Ghassul, though they are not as apparent in the

WRIGHT:Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age


Beersheba area as they are in Ghassul proper. ological division between the materials in Tell
This common pottery tradition simply cannot be en-Nasbeh, for example, and Jerusalem-Jericho is
divided and separated completely from the shapes simply not permissible on a chronological scale
known in the painted-pottery tradition of the just because the en-Nasbeh wares for the most
part are not painted while those on the other sites
Gezer-Jerusalem-Jericho axis.
A second point after the 1956 study, very are painted. I t is now perfectly clear that when
apparent, and for that matter apparent ever since many excavators publish they simply leave the
1937, was that the red and gray high-polished uninteresting wares aside and publish only those
is, the best
wares were not a single phenomenon of one very which are most interesting-that
short period. They had a history and a develop- exemplars of finely-decorated pottery-while the
ment which was traceable. This was what I common wares are left aside. If this fact is taken
attempted to point out in my Eretz Israel 5 seriously, as I for one believe that it must be,
article, with more or less success. Yet one thing then the Tell e l - F a ~ a htombs, except for the one
remains true and incontrovertible: the earliest early one, must be considered contemporary with
gray-burnished shallow bowls with the sinuous the deposits of the Jerusalem area which have
band of Beth-shan XVII-XVI have to be con- precisely the same pots but as published happen
sidered not only typologically but stratigraphically to be distinguished by band-painting. Whether
earlier than the final type of a deep carinated painted or unpainted, however, the forms are
bowl which is a dominant characteristic of identical. Therefore, there can be no separation
Megiddo Stratum X I X (Stages VII-V). This fact between Jerusalem, Ai, Jericho, Gezer and Nasbeh
is almost certainly demonstrable in the literature on the one hand and a great majority of the
with more evidence available now than even in tombs of Tell e l - F a ~ a hon the other. Such were
1956. Consequently, one cannot simply lump the the main conclusions of the research of 1956
red- and gray-lustrous wares all together as though which was presented in the Eretz Israel 5 article.
they were one thing of one particular phase
On my return home in the late fall of 1956,
without any stratigraphical and typological Miss Kenyon was kind enough to invite me to
development present in the evidence.
lunch in her home near London. Here we talked
A third fact, and this a crucial one for chro- over the problems of this era in the light of my
nology, is that in the tombs of de Vaux's Tell own research just concluded and her work at
e l - F a ~ a hthere is one early tomb with a gray- Jericho. I presented in brief my arguments for
burnished bowl of the earliest type. All other calling the whole post-Ghassulian period Early
gray-burnished bo~vls in the other tombs are Bronze I, dating it before the pitchers and other
typologically intermediate between the earliest items which correlate with the 1st Dynasty in
types in Beth-shan XVII-XVI and Megiddo Egypt and mark Early Bronze I1 in Palestine.
XIX. With them in the same tombs appear the When I objected to the use of the term "Late
pottery forms which in the Jerusalem region are Chalcolithic" as meaningful, she suggested imband-painted. I t just happens that for the most mediately something that was in her mind, namely
part they are not painted at Farcah. Yet after a the term "Proto-Urban." I agreed to this in the
number of years of experience in the field, and sense that this culture is indeed proto-urban and
following the lead of W. F . Albright, it appears leads at the end of its first development in Early
clear to me that form in ceramics is something Bronze I to the beginning of the major tells and
that is primary and cannot be disregarded. cities, with city walls and the like-the period for
Decoration of the form, which is the most obvious which anthropologists now reserve the term
and immediate characteristic for the casual ob- "civilization."
server, is a secondary feature and found only on
Subsequently, in articles, books and particua small portion of the finer pieces. I n any event, larly in the volumes of tombs, Jericho I and
form can never be disregarded. Thus, a chron- Jericho 11, Miss Kenyon explained her position in


Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91.2 (1971)

more detail. Between the Chalcolithic and Early

Bronze Age in the transitional period in question
she introduces a "Proto-Urban" period. This is
characterized by three ceramic elements she
believes are very largely coterminous in date,
though not in geography. These are the redburnished pottery (ceramic horizon A), the bandpainted wares of the Jerusalem area (ceramic B)
and the gray-burnished pottery (C). The objection which I have had to this general treatment is
that it is indeed too quick and too general and
disregards for the most part all stratigraphy
before the new ~ o r under
Kenyon's direction at
Jericho. The possibility of demonstrating in the
pre-Early Bronze I1 period a development in the
red-burnished pottery (A) and of the grayburnished pottery (C), and even of perhaps two
phases of the band-painted pottery of the Jerusalem area (B) is simply not discussed. Consequently, I have been unable to follow her
classification as a really meaningful one. She bases
a great deal upon the difference between such
tombs as A 94 and A 13 along with other tombs
of their type at Jericho. A 94 represents to her the
earliest horizon of the red-burnished period. Yet
when the tomb x a s finally published in detail in
Jericho 11,one had to pull back immediately from
the conclusions which Miss Kenyon d r a m from
this material. I n the first place, it is a very highlyselected and specialized group of funeral pottery
in a tomb, with a very narrow range of shapes. I t
is, therefore, not to be compared with what one
would expect to find in a normal house deposit of
the period and there is a great possibility that,
while forms are present which might be expected
to be band-painted, it just happens that in this
tomb they are not. Consequently, the assumption
of a huge separation between tombs A 94 and A
13, for example, cannot be taken for granted as a
major chronological indicator.
De Vaux rejects both my own and the Kenyon
classification, but from a very different perspective. According to de Vaux the red-slipped and
gray-burnished traditions come into Palestine
from the north and press down upon but co-exist
~ ~ 4 the
t h Ghassulian/Beersheba culture, which he
interprets to be characteristic only of the south.

He agrees that this northern impulse will soon

engulf the Ghassulian and yet at the same time
he would classify it as "Late Chalcolithic" because, in his view, it still belongs to his third
prehistoric phase, "Farmers, Potters and Metal
Workers.'' The result is that his treatment of
the period in question is, in fact, though unmentioned, an up-dating of my 1937 chronology
of the "Esdraelon Culture" and the consideration
of it as Late Chalcolithic, indeed the end of the
Chalcolithic period.
The new factor is the assumption that the
Ghassulian/Beersheba culture is to be considered
contemporary with
For him the true Early
Bronze I begins with the Jerusalem-painted wares
and the continuation of the red tradition in the
north and ends with the establishment of the
great urban centers with city walls and the
beginning of the great tells of historical times.
About the same time as de Vaux was writing his
chapters for CAH, Ruth Amiran in Israel was
writing her basic work, Ancient Pottery of the H o l y
L a n d . The Hebrew edition of this work was first
published in 1963. The English edition, revised
and updated, has finally been published by
Rutgers Tniversity Press, 1970, Appropriately
enough the work is dedicated to William Foxrvell
,4lbright. Her treatment of the period under
discussion appears on pp. 22-57 of the English
edition xith elaborate illustrations of the pottery
forms in question. She, along with most Israelis
who are dealing with the problem, follox~-sthis
reviewer's perspective of the period in question
and it should be read as a counterbalance to the
very clear presentation of de Vaux. I t is Mrs.
Amiran's position, and that also of myself, that
the view of a very lengthy overlap between the
red- and gray-burnished ceramic horizons with the
Beersheba culture is out of the question. The
Ghassulian horizon stratigraphically appears belox~rthe "Upper Chalcolithic" of de Vaux at Tell
el-Farcah, for example; a similar situation seems
to pertain at ~Affulehand, among other pieces of
important evidence, in Mellaart's soundings at
See also Perrot, op. cit. (note 3 ) , who has lorip held
this view.

WRIGHT:A rchaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age

Tell esh-Shuneh, east of the Jordan opposite
Beth-shan? Both Beth-shan and Shuneh, like
Khirbet Kerak, are tremendous sites for Early
Bronze I11 and Khirbet Kerak ware proper. But
a t Shuneh we have a good stratification right down
through the earlier period into the Ghassulian
horizon. The same appears to be true in Ruth
Amiran's excavations a t Tell Arad in the northern
Kegev. I n other words, there is quite a sufficiency
of evidence to make it highly improbable that
there is any lengthy coexistence between these
two radically distinct cultures. On the contrary,
as Ruth Amiran summarizes the evidence, the
red-burnished and gray-burnished wares have to
be seen as contemporary in a large measure with
the band-painted ware of the Jerusalem area. It is
thus impossible to separate the period, and the
whole post-Ghassulian horizon must be called
Early Bronze I.8
This is not the place to present all the arguments
in detail. Indeed, the evidence is not such that
absolute proof for one side of the position or the
other can be produced.
Recently two important new treatments of the
problem have appeared. One is the volume of J. B.
Hennessy, T h e Foreign Relations of Palestine During the Early Bronze Age (London, 1967), who in
general supports the position of Kenyon but with
much new material, and particularly new information concerning the stratification of the Jericho
tell. The second is the clearest review of the whole
problem, and the three positions taken to solve it,
by Paul W. Lapp, "Palestine in the Early Bronze
Age," Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth
Century (Glueck Festschrift ed. by J. A. Sanders;
Doubleday, 1970), pp. 101-131. Neither Lapp nor
Hennessy are impressed by my attempt to bolster
the terminology "EB I A, B, C" by stratigraphical
arguments. Lapp, however, in describing the vari-


ous positions on the period in question ("Early

Bronze I [Wright, Amiran], Proto-Urban [Kenyon,
Hennessy] and Late Chalcolithic [Albright, de
Vaux]"), makes a fresh attempt to argue for the
EB I A (= Proto-Urban A), EB I B (ProtoUrban B), and EB I C (EB I) in the other classifications. His discussion is generally convincing
to this reviewer, of course, though I reserve judgment on his interpretation of the Bab edh-Dhrac
town and cemetery material until further evidence is published (see below).
111. Defining the beginning of the Early Bronze
Age as the band-painted \Tare of the Jerusalem or
central area of the country, de Vaux has trouble
in getting his Early Bronze Age started and correlated with other sites in the country. I n attempting a correlation with northern sites, he is forced
to conclude that the red-slipped (and gray-burnished?) wares of the "Late Chalcolithic" in his
terminology are contemporary with the beginning
of Early Bronze I in the central section of the
country. Thus, not only does the Ghassulian
overlap with the northern tradition of Late Chalcolithic, but also the southern Early Bronze I overlaps with the northern "Late Chalcolithic." He
considers it, nevertheless, proper to use the term
Early Bronze I for this central area material
because it is the southern culture which in due
course overcomes the northern or "Late Chalcolithic" and leads into full urbanization. This presents a peculiar picture. One would presume that
the real drive t o ~ ~ a urbanization
should be coming into the country from the north. Indeed,
Frankfort, Kantor and others long ago emphasized
this age as one of the first periods of truly international trade, but the influence seems to be
coming from the north and from Mesopotamia
around the Fertile Crescent into Egypt, and not
the other \Tay around. The earliest stone architecture in Egypt, for example, according to FrankSee H. de Contenson, "Three Soundings in the Jor- fort, shows the strong impulse of the peculiar use
dan Valley," A D A J , Vol. 4-5 (1960), pp. 57 f f . ; '(La of brick decorative styles on Mesopotamian
chronologie du niveau la plus ancient de Tell esh-Shuna temples. For spouts and seals and other evidence
(Jordanie)," M U S J , Vol. 37 (1960), pp. 57 ff.
of this relationship, see now for summary the
See most recently R u t h Amiran, "The Beginnings of
of Ruth Amiran (op. cit.).
Urbanism in Canaan," iyear Eastern Archaeology in the
would appear to be a serious obTwentieth Century (Glueck Festschrift; ed. by J. A.
jection on a theoretical level to the presentation
Sanders ; Doubleday, 1970), pp. 83-100.


Jour.~ialof the A m e l k a n O~ientalSociety, 91.2 (1971)

by de Vaux. From what source comes the impulse

toward urbanization which is represented in central and southern Palestine while the north is
considered to have been still occupied by "Late
Chalcolithic"? To this reviewer such a criticism
plus the state of our present evidence, mounting
in volume since 1965, renders de Vaux's perspective and correlations most dificult. On the other
hand, if the treatment of this reviewer and more
recently that of Ruth Amiran were followed, the
continuities amidst the discontinuities can be seen
to be such that the impulse toward urbanization
is that which began immediately after the Ghassulian precisely in the red- and gray-burnished
tradition in the north. This tradition in its earliest
phase is found as far south as 'Alayiq at Jericho
but not apparently on the mound itself, whereas
the painted wares of the central area can now be
seen in far greater numbers appearing in northern
Palestine. Such a view, while allowing for the
regional differences, also allows for the strong
urban impulse to be moving down from the north
all over the country in the post-Ghassulian or
EB I (in this reviewer's nomenclature).
A major difficulty in dealing with the Early
Bronze Age is the fact that so much new and very
important material is as yet unpublished. Fortunately, the excavation of Tel Arad was ready for
the press in late summer of 1970. Here a small
Beersheba type of Chalcolithic deposit was succeeded by a succession of houses, enclosed inside a
city wall erected at the end of E B I and in 11. The
last phase of the houses and the wall are immediately under the surface of the ground so that their
tops could be swept off with a broom once one
knew where they were. In other words, the area
had not been cultivated since the abandonment of
the Early Bronze city of some twenty-five acres.
From this site important new dimensions of knowledge for the development of pottery chronology
should be available. I t also reveals for the first time
the true nature of the typical Early Bronze Age
house as a rectangular main room with entrance
on the center of the long side of the rectangle and
with a bench running around the inside. The Early
Bronze temples at Arad and elsewhere of the
period would appear to be simply an enlargement

and beautifying of this simple type of house. Here

the imported Egyptian material, though small in
quantity, was suffcient to suggest that the beginning of the 1st Dynasty must have begun
slightly before the beginning of Early Bronze IT
during the last phase of Early Bronze I.
Of great importance also is the excavation at
Ai, which has been carried on since 1964 by Joseph
A. Callaway and his staff. These sites and others
when published ought greatly to improve our
definition of the phases of the Early Bronze Age.
In any event, the evidence is clear that city
walls appeared at the end of EB I and before the
beginning of EB I1 at such sites as Tell el-Farcah
Arad, Ai, Tel ~Areini(formerly Tel Gat) and
perhaps at Khirbet Kerak. I t was de Vaux at
Farcah who discovered the first city gate known
for certain in the Early Bronze Age. I t consisted
of a passage four meters wide contracting to two
meters on the inside, surmounted by brick tom-ers.
The original wall in phase l b is said to have been
2.60-2.80 m. wide. I n phase I1 an additional three
meters was added to it with glacis while on the
south side of the mound a new rampart, 8.50 m. in
width, was erected. In other words, by about the
30th century B.C. people in Palestine were capable
of protecting their cities with huge fortificatiorls
using mass for strength and even protecting the
outside of the slopes below the city walls at such
places as Farcah, Ai and Taanach with a kind of
glacis. This is indeed the revolution to urbanism,
and such a term as "primitive" can no longer be
applied to the people's technological ability.
By the summer of 1970 Callaway was able to
assert that at least two city gates are kno~vnin
the huge stone fortification at Ai. A great citadel
was erected over the first city wall in E B I1 011
the west and most vulnerable side of the city. On
the southwest a double line of ~vaIls,repeatedly
buttressed do\\-n the slope, was discovered. The
fortifications continue around the south and create
a city nearly thirty acres in extent. The most
surprising new discovery at Ai in the last full
season of excavation (1968-1969) was a huge pool
which collected the winter rain and obviously
served as one of the main, if not the main, source
of water for the city. I t was most ingeniously con-

Archaeology of Palestine f r o m hTeolithic through Middle Bronze Age
structed, using a special type of red clay, which
when soaked with water becomes completely impermeable to leakage. The sides of this earthen
dam were held in place by inner and outer stone
malls while the clay sealed the virgin rock beneath
a flagstone floor.
De Vaux continues to believe that the main
building at the highest point of the tell of Ai is a
palace, while a series of nondescript rooms against
the city wall behind it are considered "the sanctuary." The writer has attempted to show the
impossibility of this interpretation in a recent
article, "The Significance of Ai in the Third Millennium B.c.," Archaologie u n d Altes Testament;
Festschrift Galling; ed. by Arnulf Kuschke and
Ernst Kutsch; Tiibingen, 1970), pp. 299-319. I n
this article the origin of the view, followed by de
Vaux, is credited to the extraordinary imagination
of the late Pkre Vincent. By attempting to put
together a preliminary survey of the various
temple types in Syria and Palestine during the 3rd
and 2nd millennia B.c., the reviewer believes that
there can no longer by any question but that the
Ai main building is a typical Canaanite temple.
The type continues in the 2nd millennium at
Alalakh in Syria in the 18th through the 13th
I n the same article it is also shown that the
Babylonian cubit of 500 mm. width seems to have
been the basic measuring unit of Syria and Palestine in the 3rd millennium, whereas during the
Middle Bronze Age Palestine shifts to the Egyptian cubits of approximately 525 mm. and 445 mm.
The Alalakh temples on the other hand continue
the Babylonian cubit down into the 13th cent.
I t is surprising how many of the dimensions given
by de Vaux for various ramparts, the F a ~ a hgate
and other building units, fall into the picture of
the Babylonian cubit in the Early Bronze Age.
On the other hand, until excavators begin to
measure precisely with the problem of the cubit
measurement in mind and also the problem of
plaster on inside and external faces of the wall, it
is dangerous to generalize too sharply about ordinary excavators' dimensions.
I t would appear that the major cities of Palestine were all destroyed at the end of either Early


Bronze I1 or during the course of Early Bronze

111, so that by about the 24th century B.C. there
is not a city existing in the country. A dark age
then descended about which little can be said,
though in 1937 I suggested the term Early Bronze
IV as a designation for it. However, we still do
not have very much material to place with certainty within it. I t is highly likely that, as more
information is accumulated, burials of a variety of
nomadic groups will gradually come to light. At
least at the moment the discovery of cemeteries
would seem to be our best hope of penetrating the
I n the opinion of this reviewer, one of the most
important discoveries of a cemetery in modern
times, which may do a great deal to fill out a part
of the Early Bronze IV picture, is the work of
Paul W. Lapp a t Bab edh-Dhrac on the Lisan or
"Tongue" extending into the Dead Sea in Transjordan. From his soundings it would appear that
there was an Early Bronze Age city surrounded by
a wall existing at the site at least in E B I and 11,
but since only soundings were made in the city
and the material remains unpublished, little more
can be said about it. Outside the city was a vast
cemetery, Dr. Lapp calculating at least 50,000
burials. Yet all of the burials consisted of bones
secondarily collected in tombs and in rectangular
"charnel" houses. The plans of such houses as have
been published seem to be generally rectangular
with entrance on the long side as we would expect
in the Early Bronze Age. All burials thus are
secondary burials. The only primary burials where
skeletons were in some articulation, as far as I
have been informed, were in stone cairns, most of
which, however, were empty of bone contents.
There may be some exceptions to this general rule,
but those who have worked at the site have told
me that this distinction between cairn and tomb
appeared to be the general situation. Most of the
pottery in the tombs and charnel houses is of a
new type never before recognized. The vessels are
thin in sections and all handmade, including the
rims. The handles of this hard-fired, handmade
ware appear mostly on jugs and those that I
have seen tend more toward a flattish, strap-like
handle than round in section. Sometimes the ves-


Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91.2 (1971)

sels are covered with a burnished red or orange

slip, but most often they are unslipped and unburnished. The firing of the pottery is so hard that
it would appear to make the vessel "water-tight,"
though this is an observation which needs to be
technically checked.
The problem of dating this unknown horizon of
pottery is very difficult. I n a number of the tombs
and in the charnel houses the bowls were put
together not infrequently in a stacking effect. On
the top of the stack would occasionally appear a
little band-painted E B I or E B I1 juglet or other
vessel of known EB 1-11 horizon. Methodologically, the problem would seem to solve itself by
dating the unknown by the known. This was the
solution of Dr. Lapp, who divided the pottery over
a long period from the end of the 4th millennium
to the end of the 3rd.9 On the other hand, one
must remark on the fact that the tombs are all
shaft tombs of the type otherwise known in the
country only from the Middle Bronze I period
around the turn of the 2nd millennium (see below).
The main difference is that around one shaft two
or more tombs were dug, precisely as happened
in Tombs 1101-1102 at >legiddo. The latter
clearly belonged to the earliest phase of the transitional M B I period, as William G. Dever will show
in his forthcoming dissertation on the latter
On the other hand, the way the pottery is made
by hand in thin hard-fired sections, the lug handles
and the nature of the jug rim remind one most
strongly of hlB I pottery, though the shapes
suggest that they are probably not in a direct line
of chronological development, but the technique
is that of another group of nomadic people. Finally, the cairns at Bab edh-Dhra', as in thevarious
sites in the Xegev in J I B I, were probably used for
the primary inhumation, the bones and skulls
9 See Paul W. Lapp, "The Cemetery a t Bab edh-Dhra,
Jordan," Archaeology, Vol. 19 (1966), pp. 110 ff.; "Bhb
edh-DhrLC Tomb A76 and Early Bronze I in Palestine,"
BASOR, K O .189 (1968), pp. 12-41; and "Palestine in the
Early Bronze Age," o p . c i t . The largest collection of the
Bab edh-Dhra pottery thus far published is that of S.
Saller, "Bab edh-Dhra," Studii Biblici Franciscani Liber
Annuus, Vol. XV (1966), pp. 137 ff.

being removed to tombs and charnel houses only

after the flesh had decomposed. Thus, the argument from the nature of the tombs as shaft tombs
and the argument from the pottery itself lead this
reviewer to suggest that it is perhaps the most
important discovery to be fitted into the period
between the 24th and 22nd centuries so far made.
The only explanation for the occasional EB I and
E B I1 vessels on the top of pottery stacks or
elsewhere scattered on the floor of charnel houses
would be that the diggers of the tombs ran into
earlier material in the vast amount of tomb digging done and the earlier pottery was simply saved
in the fashion mentioned, as other examples in
archaeological history suggest. In any event, the
vast bulk of the pottery is otherwise completely
unknown, while the burial customs are closest to
those of M B I. On the other hand, it must be said
that the views of Lapp and myself could possibly
be adjusted quickly to one another, when all his
material is published, if there is evidence of which
I am unaware.
IV. Finally, we turn to Kathleen Kenyon's chapter on the Middle Bronze Age in Palestine. As a
preface to it we need to have read her sections
V-VII of Chapter 21 of the revised edition of
CAE. This is on the "Nomadic Way of Life of the
Inhabitants of Palestine During the Period
Roughly Equivalent to the First Intermediate
Period of Egypt" and which she labels "Intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze." She thus
rejects Albright's term, "Middle Bronze I," for
the age, a term which is still used by most Israeli
scholars and by this reviewer, following Albright.
To read these chapters it is important to understand that they are written by a completely different type of scholar than Father de Vaux. Miss
Kenyon is one of the great field archaeologists of
our time, a pioneer in her work at Samaria,
Jericho and Jerusalem. We are all indebted to her
and field work will not be the same again as a
result of her efforts at applying what she learned
from Sir Mortimer Wheeler to the complex problem of Palestinian stratigraphy (see the reviewer's
article, for example, "Archaeological Method in
Palestine-An American Interpretation," Eretz
Israel, Vol. 9 [The Albright Festschrift, 19691, pp.

Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age
120-133. Thus, we expect a review of the material
by a field archaeologist. I t is not the type of work
that we have been reviewing by de Vaux. It thus
has its own peculiar strengths, but because of a
radically narrowed span of coverage the chapter
will not be as comprehensive or as detailed as
what we have been reviewing.
First, regarding the chronological and terminological problems, Kenyon's unilateral abandonment of the traditional terminology means that
the first period of what everyone else calls Middle
Bronze I1 will be, to her, Middle Bronze I. While
she affirms the continuity of the culture in the age
in question, she thus has to divide artificially the
period into two phases, Middle Bronze I and
Middle Bronze 11, the latter undifferentiated in
phases, except for certain tomb criteria which she
derives from Jericho. The rest of us, in order to
affirm this continuity of culture, have divided it
into three phases, Middle Bronze I1 A, I1 B, and
I1 C. All agree that the end of the Middle Bronze
Age occurred about 1550 B.c., or at the latest in
the third quarter of the 16th century, when the
first kings of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty were
recovering their Asiatic empire from the Hyksos
dominion. Inasmuch as this dominion seems to
have consisted of a firm league of the SyroPalestinian city-states, each one of them is systematically destroyed, as far as present evidence
The key to the terminological problem lies with
one's evaluation of the preceding culture, Kenyon's "EB-MB" or Albright's "MB I." Kenyon
emphasizes the complete separation of this culture
from what preceded and from what followed it.
I t is so isolated that it must indeed be considered
an intermediate phase, which cannot be placed in
the normal sequence of numbers in Early Bronze
or Middle Bronze. From an analysis of the Jericho
tombs of the age, she sees many groups of people
involved and considers them largely nomadic. The
opposite point of view, held by this reviewer and
Israeli scholars who have dealt with the issue, is
to see that the various groups involved have lived
on the fringes of E B I and E B I1 culture as
semi-nomads, so that their pottery, while completely new and original in technique and decora-


tion, nevertheless preserves certain shapes which

must derive from 600-900 years previously.
On the other side, the break between this intermediate age and the following periods in Middle
Bronze Age is not as complete as Kenyon suggests:
the Middle Bronze pinched lamp does indeed begin in the intermediate period; incised bands on
the top shoulder of large jars continue even into
the early 17th century; heavy platter cooking pots
continue into the succeeding ages even though
they are not as common as the regular cooking
pots, which show a gradual and steady evolution
throughout the Middle and Late Bronze stages
into the Iron Age. For more details on the connections between the intermediate period and the
Middle Bronze Age proper, see Ruth Amiran, op.
cit., pp. 79-89 and her article, "The Pottery of the
Middle Bronze Age I in Palestine," IEJ, Vol. 10
(1960), pp. 204-225.'' Furthermore, the fact that
we know so much about these intermediate people
is owing to their unusual burial customs. Usually
they deposited single secondary burials in large
shaft tombs like those a t Bab edh-Dhrac, except
that one tomb per shaft was the regular custom.
There is also the fact that they are beginning to
settle down on most of the major tells in the
country. Furthermore, in at least two sites, excavation recently has produced stratigraphy of
more than one level, as did Tell Beit Mirsim where
Albright first isolated the culture. This is a considerable addition to a large amount of evidence
which tombs by nature of their limitation cannot
produce.ll Consequently, it is clear that we have
10 On the other hand, the emphasis of Kenyon is in
general correct, and the connections while few in number
do in fact exist. See the article by William G. Dever,
"The 'Middle Bronze I' Period in Syria and Palestine,"
Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century
(Glueck Festschrift; J . A . Sanders, ed.), pp. 132-163,
which to this writer is the most authoriative review to
date. On the point a t issue, see his remarks, p. 159 note
l1 See N. Kochavi "The Excavation a t H a r Yeroham,
Preliminary Communications," BIES, Vol. 27 (1964),
pp. 286292 (Hebrew); and the excavation of William G.
Dever, since 1967, a t Tell el-Ful, a few miles west of
Hebron: "The 'Middle Bronze I' Period in Syria and
Palestine," Near Eastern Archaeology i n the Twentieth
Century, pp. 132-163.


Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91.2 (1971)

here in the intermediate age a nomadic people in

the process of becoming sedentary, settling in
towns. I n other words, they are precisely analogous to Kenyon's "Proto-Urban" period over a
thousand years earlier, preceding the full urbanization, the renewal of city fortifications and the
like at the end of Early Bronze I. From this perspective, therefore, Middle Bronze I makes much
more sense as a title than the term "Intermediate
Period." I n MB I and MB I1 A (the latter
Kenyon's "MB I") we have two waves of Amorite
invasion which end with the full re-urbanization
of the country, in a situation quite analogous to
the period termed by this reviewer and Ruth
Amiran "Early Bronze I" discussed above. This
defense of the use of the term Middle Bronze I for
Kenyon's "EB-MB" is a fresh one, but it has
grown from her own presuppositions used in the
earlier period but unused at this time because her
eyes are focused almost solely on the Jericho
tombs for the analysis of the people in question.
Yet MB I is surely closely analogous to Kenyon's
"Proto-Urban" at the end of the fourth millennium, and deserves to to be so considered. Hence,
its connection with MB I1 is better defended than
its complete isolation, especially when the peoples
involved must all have been "Amorites."
As for chronology, Kenyon dates her "Middle
Bronze I" (our Middle Bronze I1 A) to a halfcentury, approximately 1850-1800 B.C. (p. 43).
This is not far removed from W. F. Albright's
recent attempts to confine the period also to a
half-century, but to date it ca. 1800-1750 B . C . ' ~
(see his discussion in Chronologies in Old World
Archaeology [ed. by R. W. Ehrich; Chicago, 19651,
pp. 53-54). Kenyon draws her chronology chiefly
from the relation of this culture to that of Byblos,

and particularly from that of the Byblian royal

tombs, precisely as Albright had originally done
in his fixing of the period and its approximate time
in his work a t Tell Beit Mirsim. Albright is able
to argue for an even lower dating of the period
because he has lowered his dates for the royal
As in all cases where a new culture begins, it is
difficult to assess the length of time that it took
to become well-established in the country, especially as the initial stages are very difficult to
discover. I n addition, insufficient excavation has
been done to find real stratigraphy anywhere in
the country other than Strata G and F at Tell
Beit llirsim, where a town wall and well-built
brick "palace'' were discovered, and some part of
Strata XV-XI11 at >legiddo with another city
wall and a gateway belonging to the period. Yet in
Principal Kenyon's very fine critique of the
Rlegiddo excavation reports she correctly observes
that the stratification is such that it is dangerous
to rely on the supposedly stratified material without a study of each particular locus. Consequently,
the main reliable material that we have is derived
from tombs which are usually to be ascribed to the
stratum subsequent to the one in which they are
found and to which they are ascribed, because they
were dug down into the lower stratum from
At least two phases of MB I1 A were discovered
at Shechem, but their locations so deep beneath
the thick deposits of MB I1 B-C were such that
clear stratigraphy and pottery separation was difficult because we were forced for the most part to
dig small probing areas between walls of later
buildings, vith the result that too little overall
exposure was secured. Major excavated tells like
Hazor, Beth-shan and Jericho all appear to have a
gap in occupation during this first phase of the
12 See Albright's articles, "Abram the Hebrew: A New
Middle Bronze Age and thus are of no help. I n the
Archaeological Interpretation," BASOR, No. 163 (1961),
pp. 36-54; "The Chronology of Middle Bronze I (Early new excavations at Gezer, beginning in 1964-1965
Bronze-Middle Bronze)," ibid., No. 168 (19621, pp. 37-41; under the auspices of the Hebrew Union College
'The Eighteenth Century Princes of Byblos and the Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem,
'Chronology of Middle Bronze," ibid., No. 176 (1964), pp. great quantities of MB I1 A and Early hlB I1 B
38-46; "Further Light. . .," ibid., No. 179 (1965), pp. 38sherds have been found in later fills, but thus far
43; "Remarks on the Chronology of Early Bronze IVno
stratification for the period has been discovered
Middle Bronze I1 A in Phoenicia and Syria-Palestine,"
and probably will not be until large enough areas
ibid., No. 184 (1966), pp. 26-35.

Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age


Ruth Amiran increases the range of dating to

1950-1730 B.C. I n the opinion of this reviewer the
main reason for maintaining an earlier dating for
the period than either that of Kenyon or of
Albright is the discovery of a number of Egyptian
statues and inscriptions in such sites as Gezer,
Megiddo, Byblos, Ugarit and Qatna, which belong
to the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty.
As I understand it, the earliest Egyptian object
found at Ugarit from the 2nd millennium is a
scarab of Sesostris I (1971-1928 B.c.). If we disregard that one object, the others make it quite
clear that we cannot go later than the period of
Sesostris I1 (1897-1878 B.c.) for at least the beginning of the age. The argument would run somewhat as follows: MB I1 A is the period when the
great city-states of Canaan and northern Syria
were re-established, though in Syria there did not
occur a break in culture quite as radical between
the Early Bronze and the Middle Bronze stratigraphically as that which occurred in Palestine."
The type of settlements thus far known in MB I
in Palestine are not such as to make necessary the
establishment of embassies with important Egyptian officials leaving memorials to themselves in
the very fragile towns that were just beginning to
be established before they were quickly snuffed
out by the second major Amorite wave beginning
IS See Dever, h he 'Middle Bronze I' Period in Syria
and Palestine ," Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twen- in M B I1 A. The urbanization which surely would
tieth Century, pp. 131-163. This is the most detailed com- interest the Egyptians in at least Palestine began
prehensive treatment of the period in question to appear
since this writer's own survey in 1938 ( B A S O R , No. 7 1 , in MB I1 A with the consequence that one must
pp. 27-34). For the chronology of the period Dever draws assume a connection between the Egyptian maon Hama and 'Amuq, "ignored by Kenyon," which terials and the full stage of urbanization in the
Dever considers strange since it is the only stratified ma- Middle Bronze, rather than the "Proto-Urban"
terial available from Syria in the period and provides the of M B I . Shechem is first mentioned in an inscriponly Carbon 14 dates (pp. 137-155, n. 3 4 ) . With this and
other evidence available Dever shows that the beginning tion of Sesostris I11 (1878-1843 B.c.). While sherds
of MB I cannot be dated later than Albright's original of M B I have been found in fills at Shechem and
2100 B.c., though i t began earlier in Syria. His interpre- in a few tombs, they are not in sufficient quantity
tation and dating of the Bab edh-DhraCtomb and charnel to assume any major settlement and no stratum
house material, while cautious, awaiting full publication, for this pottery was discovered anywhere on the
is similar to that presented here. On the other hand,
Syrian and Egyptian evidence prevent one from going tell. The result is that we must assume that
below 1900/1850 B.C. a t the latest for the beginning of Shechem as a city-state began as a creation of the
MB I1 A (see below). Lapp dates EB IV ca. 2275-2050 and second Amorite wave in MB I1 A.15

in the center of the mound can be excavated-if

the strata actually exist in the remaining parts of
the tell unexcavated by Macalister. Currently,
Field VI on the highest point of the tell by the
Muslim weli provides the best possibility. In
Macalister's The Excavations of Gezer, sherds of
the period are to be noted on the plates and
certain tombs in I11 30 are additional indicators
of the presence of this horizon. I n short, in the
opinion of this reviewer, there is simply too little
archaeological exposure of the period in question
to assert with confidence that it must be or can be
confined simply to a half-century.
As for the date of M B I1 A, it is the strong
opinion of this reviewer and of his students, particularly William G. Dever, who has concentrated
a great deal of study on MB I and I1 A and has
personally inspected virtually every deposit having anything faintly to do with the period, that
simply lowering the date of the royal tombs of
Byblos is not a sufficient indicator that the date
of the period in question must be 10wered.'~ I t is
our opinion that Albright's original dating of ca.
1900-1750 B.C. is still approximately correct and
that if any movement in the dating is to take place
it must be backward or earlier, not lower or later.

MB I ca. 2050-1900 B.C. for reasons similar to those of

Dever, though the precise figures are taken from Egyptian Dynasties: E B IV, "Sixth Dynasty thru the First
Intermediate"; MB I, "Ninth Dynasty thru Arnmenemes 11" (op. cit., p. 124).

l4 Yet note the survey by G. Posener, J. Bottero and

K . Kenyon, "Syria and Palestine, c. 2160-1780 B.c.,"
C A H a , fasc. 29 (1965).

6' For detail, see Dever, o p . cit., 140-144.


Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91.6 (1971)

The Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe, dating to the

time of Sesostris I (1971-1928 B.c.), cannot be
dated with certainty within the Palestinian chronological framework of MB I or MB I1 A. While it
throws a vivid light upon the conditions of life in
the 20th century in eastern Syria, we are told
within the tale that Sinuhe found that many
Egyptians from previous times had been visiting
the area so that his presence was not a new phenomenon. Yet it must be remembered what was
stated above, that the city-states of Palestine and
to a different degree in Syria, beginning after the
time the Khirbet Kerak ware show interruption in
stratigraphy, and a new type of ceramic horizon
to which the earliest "teapot" phase of MB I is
clearly related, as Dever has most recently shown
in detail, the relation being originally posited by
Albright. While we have insufficient knowledge of
the detailed stratigraphical transition which takes
place in the 20th and 19th centuries in Syria, it is
probable that the gray ware ('teapot" or "caliciform" (Albright) phase in Syria gave way to a
new painted pottery horizon which is closely related to the north Mesopotamian Khabur ware,
probably during the 20th century. I n such a
stratigraphical situation, it is impossible to assign
the Tale of Sinuhe to a definite archaeological
period until more exact evidence is available. The
same is true with regard to the Execration Texts,
though there is no reason why the earlier projections of Albright, which regarded the Berlin Texts
as MB I and the Brussels Texts as representing a
later phase, namely M B I1 A, are not still valid.16
With regard to the early painted wares in the
Palestinian M B I1 A, Kenyon's comparisons with
Byblos are still as cogent as they were when
Albright first pointed them out in 1932-1934.
Nevertheless, there is a much more direct and
important horizon now to be considered, which is
presently designated, for want of a better term,
the "Khabur Painted-Ware Period." The correlation between these wares and the Palestinian is
1 6 See, for example, the survey by Albright in T h e
Bible and the Ancient Xear East (G.E . Wright, ed., 1961;
Anchor Books ed. 1965), pp. 444-448 (Anchor ed.); Dever,
loc. cit.; and esp. the work cited in note 14.

much more clearly pointed out by Ruth Amiran,

, pp. 90-123.
Ancient Pottery
I n the treatment of Middle Bronze Age I1 B and
I1 C (dated by this reviewer ca. 1750-1650 B.C.
and 1650-1550 B.C. respectively), Miss Kenyon
uses Jericho as a type site on the basis of which she
examines other sites of the age. This plunges her
into difficulties, because all that is known of
Jericho in this period, which she employs for her
basic chronological criteria, is a series of tombs
which she divides into five phases. The first is
considered late Middle Bronze I1 A (her M B I),
while her latest phase, Group V, is placed a t the
end of the Middle Bronze Age, about 1550 B.C.
This reviewer has pointed out, however, that
Diana ICirkbride, in her review of the Egyptian
evidence in Jericho 11, shortens Miss Kenyon's
dating of the material from Zk1850-1550 B.C. to
the late 18th and 17th centuries. On the basis of
the close phasings of Shechem pottery this writer
would fully agree. If the first group were to be
dated to the 2nd quarter of the 18th century and
the other groups distributed between Zk1725
and 1600 B.c., the Kenyon tomb material would
be much more in accord with the present state of
our ceramic chronology."
Yet there is the problem even in this use of the
Jericho material as pivotal for judging all other
Palestinian deposits of the age. The reason is that
Kenyon had not yet a t the time of publication
been able to correlate her tombs with the stratigraphical phases on the mound proper. The result
is that the very specialized type of material that is
preserved in a group of important tombs is used to
assess, chronologically, town strata where a much
larger and more normal range of material exists.
Furthermore, a large part of her treatment of Middle Bronze I1 B-C is taken up with a description
of Jericho, which is merely a prdcis of what has
been given us in more detail in Digging up Jericho,
Archaeology in the Holy Land, and especially in
Jericho II. It is a t least to the first two of these
works that the general reader would be better
advised to turn for a detailed description of


l7 See my review of Kenyon's Jericho I I in Antiquity,

Vol. 40 (1966), pp. 149-150.

Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age
Kenyon's knowledge of Jericho at this stage of her
study than to the few pages given to the subject
in this fascicule of the C A H .
Yet in saying this we should recall the remarks
with which this section began. To the field excavator, it is natural that that which he or she has
excavated should assume central importance in his
or her mind, simply by reason of the fact that so
many years of one's life have been spent in concentration on one site. I n addition, it is natural for
the excavator to be-& at the point which he or she
best controls. This reviewer, therefore, must confess his own prejudice as a result of fifteen years of
concentration on one site of the same periodnamely, Tell Balatah, ancient Shechem. I t should
be no surprise to the reader, consequently, to read
that to the reviewer the site of ancient Shechem
will in the future be the type site for the J I B I1 B
and MB I1 C periods! There instead of four pottery separations by tomb groups within the
periods in question, eight stratified tell deposits
were distinguished in such a way that at Shechem
at least we could separate MB I1 C from MB I1 B
and produce stratified deposits that average out at
twenty-five year intervals, though in actual historical fact they were surely much more irregular
than that. Yet I cannot expect this fact to be
publicly accepted until the ceramic dissertations
on MB I1 B and M B I1 C, respectively, are
published by Professors D. C. Cole and J. D.
For this period, as for all others, so much new
information has accumulated in the last fifteen
years that remains unpublished. A great deal of
work, however, has begun on a critical examination of what has been published, though most of
this work remains hidden in dissertations and
seminar papers of graduate students working with
instructors. Of great importance has been the vast
amount of work which Miss Kenyon herself has
done upon the isolation of tomb groups and
architectural phasing of the work of Loud and
Shipton between 1936 and 1939, published in
Megiddo II. Alost important is her article on "The
Middle and Late Bronze Strata at Megiddo,"
Levant, Vol. I (1969), pp. 25-60. As indicated
above, no tomb group or locus at Megiddo can be


taken for granted as belonging to any stratum

designated by the excavator without complete
restudy. This involves a vast amount of labor,
literally pulling this material apart in order to put
it back together again according to the present
state of our knowledge. I n this article Miss
Kenyon has managed to '(prove" as fully as can
be proved, for example, that the fortress temple
(Building 2048) does indeed go back into the 17th
century, since its walls and foundations are clearly
cut through Stratum X complexes in the northwest and southeast sectors (p. 50). Stratum X
(Kenyon's Phase P) is dated to the end of the
Middle Bronze Age. This is a very happy conclusion for the reviewer, inasmuch as he had maintained on the basis of the Megiddo plans that the
date of the building must also be brought back
into the period of at least Stratum X I of the 17th
century. Thus, it would have been erected a t
approximately the same time as the even more
massive structure of the same type found a6
Shechem and erected along with the great Wall A
fortification at the beginning of the NB I1 C
Another very important feature of this article
is the detailed analysis of the phasing in the deep
cut on the eastern side of Megiddo, Area AA.
Here finally is clearly shown how to the early
period of Stratum XI1 (Kenyon's Phase A-D) a
new town wall was erected with the system of
internal buttresses not otherwise known elsewhere,
erected on top of a considerable bank with a facing, presumably of marl. Megiddo is thus shown
to have the new defensive system erected at all
other known towns where the slopes of the bank
itself are used as a primary defensive work. The
slope is held in place by prepared material, usually
termed a glacis. Frequently, a stone wall builB
against the bank a t the foot of the tell protects
the slope at the bottom and a major defensive
wall is expected to appear at the top. This is
precisely what Kenyon shows is the case at
Megiddo, except for the fact that insufficient
l8 See my Shechem: Biography of a Biblical City
(1965), p. 94; Kenyon CAH2, fasc. 48, p. 23; Levant, Vol.
I (1969), pp. 49-50.


Jour7zal of the American Orie7ztal Society, 91.8 (1971)

excavation was carried out on the slope to indicate

what the bank was like a t that point.
The dating of this new type of fortification of
all tells thus far investigated in the country is
agreed to by most everyone on archaeological
grounds. Kenyon, for example, points to the
sealed J I B I1 B tomb within the glacis at Lachish.
The evidence of Tell Beit Jlirsim is ~vellknown.
The very clear evidence that can be convincingly
proved ceramically, when published, a t Shechem
is most important. And within the last two years
tombs sealed by the rampart at Tel Dan are
equally important. That is, the radically new type
of fortification belongs to the second phase of M B
I1 B and, therefore, to approximately the end of
the 18th century.
Yet on sites where we have evidence, the
earthen fortification is increasingly faced or substituted, as in the west wall at Shechem, by great
stone masonry. The idea behind the earthen-work
fortification does not survive the Middle Bronze
period (except for isolated and very special cases
where the embankment is scarped and used as
fortification as in Iron Age Beersheba, discovered
by Professor Aharoni in 1970). The fortification in
question is such a commonsense and powerful type
of defense that one cannot help but wonder why it
lasts for so short a period and why it is given up in
the time of the Egyptian 18th Dynasty, which
brings the Middle Bronze I1 period to an end.
Kenyon follows Professor Yadin in his suggestion
that the new use of the glacis was the city-state's
response to the introduction of the battering ram
in AIesopotamia f1800 B.C. On the other hand, a
former officer of the U.S. Army, writing a paper
about the phenomenon in one of my Harvard
courses, could not understand why the reason for
the glacis need be any more important than
simply the preparation in front of the defenders
on the wall a t the top of a clear field of defense,
over which any attackers had to come. The evidence of the Egyptian reconquest of Shechem is
very clear on this point. They forced the east
gate and then destroyed all fortifications, presumably by setting the wood on fire with oil and
then pulling sufficient brick out of the bottom of
the brick part of the wall above the stone base,
in order that the whole brick superstructure of

the wall and all its woodwork supports and top

battlements would fall burning into the city,
leaving brick debris to be found by the archaeologists extending some 7-10 m, from the wall inside the city.
A major problem for those working in Asia is
the interpretation of great earthen-work enclosures built at the same time as the new type of
fortification around the sides of the tells. The
interpretation that comes most easily to us is
that of W. I?. Albright in the early 1930's) on the
basis of such enclosures as Tell el-Yahudiyeh in
Egypt, Qatna and Carchemish in Syria. He interpreted these earthen enclosures as camps for the
"Hyksos" army and their new weapon, the horse
and the chariot. Then between 1955 and 1958
came details of the knowledge of the largest second millennium city in the country. This is
Hazor, excavated by a large team of Israeli
scholars headed by Professor Padin. The tell
proper is on the south and a vast plateau of some
150 acres was created to the north, with sides
scarped, and with one gate of the typical threeentry type of the Middle Bronze Age 1;nown
along the north slope at Site K, and another uncovered further to the south during the past
year or so. Here again the dating seems very
clear. The enclosure was created in the second
half of the 18th century and from ca. 1700 to
1200 B.C. the whole of it seems to have been filled
with houses and public structures. I t now is the
largest known city in the country. Second to it in
size is Tel Dan near Banias, before 1967 directly
on the Israeli-Syrian border. Here the embankment
like those at Tell el-Yahudiyeh, Qatna and Carchemish consists of piling up earth in what was
evidently a more or less flat plain in order to
create a defense. Unlike the others that we know,
a huge stone wall was first created as the core of
the earthen embankment before the earth was
poured from it down the slopes on each side, and
the sides then plastered in place.
Jacob Kaplan has excavated still another such
enclosure, which he has identified at YabnehYam, south of Tel Aviv. Approximately half of
this enclosure is now beneath the sea, for Israeli
scientists have been able to show that since the

WRIGHT:Archaeology of Palestine from Neolithic through Middle Bronze Age

Middle Bronze time the shore of the Mediterranean has slowly been sinking, covering ruins
that were once on dry land. Not only has Kaplan
found the typical Middle Bronze three-entry gate
and thus proved the date of the structure, but he
has cut a north-south cross-section through it to
show precisely how it was erected. Beginning
with a hump of sand, the builders piled layers of
special kinds of soil, the most important which
holds the whole structure in place being ground
up conglomerate of a stone appearing only on the
coastal plain, called "Kurkar." The external face
was then lined with Kurkar stone so that it
could not erode. I t has thus remained intact
through all the many centuries with very little
subsequent building on or in it. We discovered
at Shechem that the marl or chalk embankment,
though repaired, had withstood the wear and tear
of the centuries and was to be found at every
spot we probed, once m-e knew where it was.
The interpretive problem has become acute.
For most of us in Asian archaeology the theory
that these were originally built as army camps,
some, as at Hazor, Dan and Qatna, reused in subsequent cities and some abandoned as far as any
urban purposes were concerned, as at YabnehYam. If these vast enclosures were not originally
built as army camps with horses and chariots
involved, for what possible purpose could such
vast amounts of labor have served? This question
has to be asked of those Egyptologists who today
are inclined to deny that there was any such
thing as the "Hyksos" conquest of Egypt. They
instead interpret it as various groups in the Delta
slowly getting together and conquering this piece
of territory and that, and then finally all uniting
and conquering Upper Egypt. This is precisely
the same view as Noth, and the literary critical
scholars before him, suggested for the Israelite
conquest of Canaan. I n neither case is the archaeological evidence satisfied by such a theory.
Kenyon's conclusion regarding the Middle
Bronze Age in Palestine is stated as follows:
"Palestine formed part of a larger Syro-Palestine
group, but within it was a comparative backwater, receiving little except the overlordship of
the Hyksos aristocracy, and itself offering no contributions to progress'' (p. 40). Yet the impor-


tance of our increasingly detailed knowledge of

Middle Bronze Palestine far exceeds what these
remarks would suggest, probably true as they
may be. The importance is that here we have the
clearest evidence and the fullest knowledge, chronologically and typologically well-advanced, of
something that should be known in greater detail
in the regions to the north. Yet what precisely
do we know about the RIiddle Bronze Age in
Lebanon, Syria, Rlesopotamia or Anatolia? Our
evidence consists of fragments of information
only, and these not satisfactorily controlled by
archaeological means. Thus, such observations as
the following are surely important for the whole
knowledge of ancient history in the 2nd millennium: that is, that this period represents the
greatest technological advance mankind had made
up to this time. I t represents the greatest density
of population achieved and, while there was frequent war and destruction, nevertheless, cities
expanded, some to great size, and undoubtedly
unfortified villages existed all through the countryside. The quality of life in this time, as suggested both by technology and by population
density, is in very marked contrast to the situation in the Late Bronze Age, when the Egyptian
bureaucracy, while evidently taking over the
essentials of the "Hyksos" system of government
and defense, nevertheless rapaciously "milked"
the country of its economic resources and its dignity. The Late Bronze Age is marked by a vastly
greater distinction between the rich and the poor,
when Egypt was clearly using the city-states of
the Syro-Palestinian coastline to her own economic advantage, and not to the advantage of
the local population. The Middle Bronze Ages
I1 B and I1 C are a period, therefore, of the greatest prosperity that the country had seen to that
time, or would see again before the Roman peace
enabled all countries of the Near East to achieve
their highest cultural development and population density. Most of the Near Eastern countries,
Israel excepted, have yet to attain the political
and economic prosperity of the Roman period,
and some are not even yet approaching the
sophistication of culture of MB I1 B and MB
I1 C.