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Journal Article

Archaeological Sources for the History of Palestine: The Iron Age II Period: Emerging Nations

Larry G. Herr
The Biblical Archaeologist
Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 114-151+154-183
DOI: 10.2307/3210608
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3210608
Page Count: 68
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Abstract

What were the salient features of the best known archaeological period in the history of Palestine? The three hundred and fifty years of Iron Age II open with the onset of the new millennium as marked by changes in pottery assemblages, architecture, and settlement pattern. The advent of the Persian empire in about 540 BCE-rather than the more traditional marker provided by the Babylonian conquest-brings the period to a close. Herr's presentation of the archaeology of these pivotal centuries encompasses settlement pattern, subsistence system, urban plans, architecture, technology, trade, writing, religion, art, burials, and water systems. It also includes a general treatment of the conservative aspects of everyday life that characterize the period's entire duration. How do history and archaeology intersect in these centuries which abound in literary remains? Produced by both small city states and vast empires, ostraca, clay tablets, stelae, monumental wall reliefs, and a significant portion of the biblical literature offer a tremendous resource and equally high risk. This tension is intrinsic to biblical archaeology, as it is to the broader issue of the relationship between political-historical events and archaeologically observable change in the material culture. Balanced attention to the whole spectrum of data does permit the division of the Iron II era into periods. Each of the three sub-divisions of Iron II merits its own historical and social overview sketched from biblical as well as inscriptional and ethno-archaeological evidence from Egypt, Syro-Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The archaeological data then take center stage for each of the polities of the southern Levant: Israel, Judah, Philistia, Phoenicia, Aram, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. Each of these "national" sections includes a list of sites exhibiting the material culture of that people group. The portrait of the material culture of Palestine shows how self-awareness of these small nations grew gradually across the Iron II period so that, by period's end, material culture marks out territories and identifies the nationalities of the peoples of ancient Palestine.

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