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A Landscape Comes to Life: The Iron Age I

Elizabeth Bloch-Smith and Beth Alpert Nakhai
Near Eastern Archaeology
Vol. 62, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 62-92, 101-127
DOI: 10.2307/3210703
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3210703
Page Count: 58
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Abstract

Over the course of its two centuries, the Iron I landscape of the southern Levant witnessed the formation of the social, economic, and political foundations of the familiar constellation of Iron Age states. From Israel to Edom, all emerge from this era's fascinating amalgam of regional variations, disparate population groups, and alternate economies. The story of this momentous period includes the biblical story of the transition from the city-states of Canaan to the United Monarchy of Israel. The story of the Iron I is also the story of the emergence of distinct groups on the borders of what would become Israel and Judah. Moreover, alongside the national trajectories of Ammon, Moab, and Edom, the Philistines and the Phoenicians carry forward the Bronze Age city-state mode of organization. The extraordinary events at the end of the Late Bronze Age-huge population movements, military disasters, the general demise of the city-state system, and the destabilization of Egypt's empire in south Canaan-shaped the Iron I as a period of regionally-based accommodation rather than of widespread conformity. The absence of great international markets forced most settlements to concentrate on achieving self-sufficiency, combining small-scale agriculture with animal husbandry. Archaeological survey and excavation have shown that a major element in this transition was the establishment of hundreds of small villages, renewing a landscape that had been but sparsely inhabited in the LBA. The origin of these settlers remains a vexed question, and, in particular, there is no easy reconstruction of the Israelite conquest and settlement based on combined archaeological and biblical evidence. The salient features of Iron I material culture demonstrate continuity from the LBA. Were it not for the Bible, no late thirteenth-early twelfth century Israelite invasion would be suspected. The complex archaeological and textual evidence of Iron I settlement demands a more nuanced approach than can be offered by any single model.

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