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"Walled Up to Heaven"
The Evolution of Middle Bronze Age Fortification Strategies in the Levant
by Aaron Burke
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As the first comprehensive study of fortification systems and defensive strategies in the Levant during the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1900 to 1500 B.C.E.), Walled up to Heaven is an indispensable contribution to the study of this period and of early warfare in the ancient Near East. Although archaeologists and ancient historians alike have discussed a variety of theories regarding the origin and cultural significance of the construction of earthen ramparts during the Middle Bronze Age, only this work addresses these questions in detail. In a tour de force, Burke traces the diachronic evolution and geographic distribution of the architectural features and settlement strategies connected with the emergence of Middle Bronze Age defenses in the Levant. By synthesizing historical and archaeological data from Mesopotamia and Egypt as well as the Levant, he reveals the interconnectedness of the Near Eastern world during the first half of the second millennium to an extent not recently considered. The result is a detailed employment of cognitive, social, and dirt archaeology to reconstruct the political, social, military, and cultural implications of the construction of monumental defenses and the development of defensive networks during the period of Amorite hegemony in the Levant.
Aaron Burke is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California at Los Angeles. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2004.
Publisher: Harvard Semitic Museum / Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2008
Bibliographic info: Pp. xx + 362; many illustrations
Trim Size: 8.5 x 11
"Burkes ambitionierte Dissertation schließt sicherlich eine Lu¨cke in der Erforschung der mittelbronzezeitlichen Levante. Akribisch wie auch kompakt versammelt er alle auszuwertenden Daten und erschließt sie auf wissenschaftlich nachvollziehbare Weise. Dabei stellt seine Studie nicht nur eine längst fällige Überblicksarbeit zum Thema dar, sondern er beschreitet durch die grundlegenden Fragen nach der politischen und vor allem auch der sozioökonomischen Bedeutung der Errichtung der mittelbronzezeitlichen Befestigungsanlagen ein Stu¨ck weit neue Wege. Seine Typologien und Systematiken sowie seine Berechnungen und Rekonstruktionsmodelle werden sicherlich auch Kritik hervorrufen. Denn Burkes Berechnungen und Rekonstruktionsmodellen haftet natu¨rlich—wie bei allen Modellen—das „Defizit“ des Hypothetischen an, was eben eine breite Angriffsfläche bitten kann (um im militärischen Jargon zu bleiben). Doch gerade fu¨r den Mut, mit einer Dissertation durch ihre sehr hoch gesetzten Ziele und Anspru¨che entsprechende Kritik geradezu herauszufordern, gebu¨hrt ihm Respekt. Denn nur derart ambitionierte Arbeiten können Wissenschaft und Forschung auch wirklich vorantreiben."—Friedrich Schipper, Universität Wien in Review of Bibllical Literature, February 2009.
"As the subtitle of the book indicates, the main purpose of the study is to examine the various defensive strategies that arose in the Levant in the second millennium B.C.E. Burke tries to understand their development by reference to the geographical and topographical characteristics of the sites concerned and to the prevailing conditions of the region--political, social, and economic-- in the late third and early second millennia. The focus of the discussion lies in the construction of earthen ramparts, either as freestanding enclosures surrounding or extrapolated from preexisting nuclear tells or as consolidational modifications to tell slopes--this latter process resulting in what Burke describes as "supplemental ramparts" (49-55). In both cases, the ramparts were crowned with city walls, and these are also thoroughly discussed, as are all of the associated features-- gateways, core, retaining, and revetment walls, ditches (fosses), and surface treatments (principally the so-called glacis). While much of the description of the various construction methods is fairly routine, some interesting points do emerge. Although it is often assumed, for example, that the material for the rampart is simply that excavated from the ditch surrounding it, Burke argues that this is not always the case, and he goes on to demonstrate the careful selection of a whole variety of materials designed to best suit the local conditions of the site. Not only is there much variation in in the choice of material used but there is also variation in the actual construction method, with core walls sometimes employed but in other cases not. Most surprising, perhaps, is to discover this sort of variation even within the same defensive circuit."
"It should be noted that the book is interestingly written and well illustrated. Of course, the state of our archaeological data does yet not support any indisputable reconstruciton, but this study merits consideration for its frank approach to the problems at hand."
--Jonathan N. Tubb, American Journal of Archaeology, July 2009.
"The book under review is a comprehensive study of the fascinating phenomenon of the fortifications that are seen in the Levant during the Middle Bronze Age. Based on a 2004 doctorial dissertation at the University of Chicago, this study attempts to deal with this broad topic from an impressively wide-ranging perspective, attempting to place it within a regional, temporal, functional, and theoretical framework."
"...I am convinced that this study will continue to play an important role for many years, particularly for anyone studying the Middle Bronze of the Levant as well as anyone studying aspects relating to warfare in the ancient Near East."
--Aren M. Maeir, Institute of Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University, in BASOR, volume 355, 2009.
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