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All Books and Software: Ancient Levant / Biblical Archaeology: Israel / Palestine / Canaan - History, Archaeology, and Literature: Canaan's / Israel's Relationship to Egypt

Canaanites, Chronologies, and Connections
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Canaanites, Chronologies, and Connections

The Relationship of Middle Bronze Age IIA Canaan to Middle Kingdom Egypt

by Susan Cohen

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Table of Contents


The beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (MB IIA) in Canaan (ca. 1950-1740 B.C.E.) set the stage for many of the cultural, political, and economic institutions that shaped the ancient Near East. Particular theoretical models for the analysis of complex societies are used in this study to examine textual, pictorial, and archaeological evidence relating to the nature and organization of MB IIA Canaan. The written and pictorial evidence pertaining to Egyptian-Canaanite contact indicates a fluid relationship that changed over time in response to changing social, political, and economic developments in both cultures. As a result, Egyptian policy toward Canaan was multifaceted, including approaches ranging from the use of military force to magical rites. The analysis of MB IIA site-distribution indicates that Canaanite settlement first developed in areas on the coast most conducive to agricultural growth. It then progressed according to a dendritic pattern of organization along the east-west wadi systems into the interior in response to a growing demand for resources and raw materials, fueled in part by contact with Egypt and the international world of the eastern Mediterranean. Chronological correlations between the Canaanite settlement systems and Middle Kingdom Egypt also indicate that the beginning of the MB IIA in Canaan dates well into the Middle Kingdom, rather than being contemporary with its beginnings, as previously understood. Findings concerning the Canaanite-Egyptian relationship, Canaanite site-distribution, and chronological connections between these two regions all illustrate the development of Canaan from a society in the first stages of urbanization to a fully urbanized one, setting the stage for the rise of the Hyksos to power in Egypt.

Product Details

Publisher: Harvard Semitic Museum / Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2002
Bibliographic info: 168 pages
Language(s): English


Cover: Cloth



Addressing the emergence of Canaanite cities as the topic of this revised dissertation, Cohen chronologically reshuffles the textual and artifactual evidence and concludes that urbanism arrived gradually and later than the renascence of Egypt's Middle Kingdom. This material?cultural gap helps explain more than just the curious lack of Egyptian interest witnessed in The Tale of Sinuhe; C. also sees a nebulous Egyptian foreign policy that oscillated between neighborly and bellicose relations.

In chaps. 1 and 2, C. aims to theorize, a feat accomplished with elegance and, thankfully, with little jargon. She accurately summarizes previous literature, although she overstates its shortcomings in the claim, "there is no clear understanding of MBIIa culture" (p. 1). As her synopsis demonstrates, the crux has been to what extent foreign stimuli, whether Amorite or Egyptian, induced the birth of cities in the southern Levant. Of the interpretive models in contention (including central place, world systems, trade diasporas, peer polity, and rural complexity), C. champions "Port Power Theory" (L. E. Stager, "Port Power in the Early and Middle Bronze Age: The Organization of Maritime Trade and Hinterland Production," in Studies in the Archaeology of Israel and Neighboring Lands: In Memory of Douglas L. Esse [ed. S. R. Wolff; ASOR Books 5; Atlanta: ASOR, 2001] 625?38), which is constructed from models she rejects rather summarily.

The textual problems considered are not primarily etymological in nature, so C. understandably relies on canonical translations in chap. 3. References to Asiatics and other signs of interaction are catalogued by reign and tabulated in fig. 27, where they support the notion of an inchoate Egyptian foreign policy. En route, C. dutifully informs readers of the hurdles challenging interpretation, but she tends to go around rather than over them. Here and in chap. 5 one expects more commentary on the ideology of empire, such as M. Liverani provided in Prestige and Interest: International Relations in the Near East ca. 1600?1100 B.C. (Padua: Sargon, 1990).

Chapter 4 is a catalogue of Middle Bronze (MBIIa) sites, including many that are unpublished. Aphek's ceramic sequence predominates, while nearly all Egyptian small finds are discounted. C. divides the pottery into four phases and condenses it into seven figures of profiles (a minor error switches the captions on nos. 6 and 7 on fig. 4a). Two lacunae, the Dor regional survey (S. Gibson, S. Kingsley, and J. Clarke, "Town and Country in the Southern Carmel: Report on the Landscape Archaeology Project at Dor," Levant 31 [1999] 71?121), and a MBIIa tomb from Nami (M. Artzy, "Nami: A Second Millennium International Maritime Trading Center in the Mediterranean," in Recent Excavations in Israel: A View to the West [ed. S. Gitin; Archaeological Institute of America Colloquia & Conference Papers 1; Dubuque, IA; Kendall/Hunt, 1995] 17?40), should be filled.

In chaps. 5 and 6, C. offers a compelling analysis that leaves room for debate. As fig. 7 shows, the amount of unstratified material (over half the corpus) poses limitations. Nevertheless, settlement patterns suggest how urbanism began sparsely along the coast and gradually moved inland up to the extensive urbanism of MBIIb. If one accepts C.'s reading of the Avaris sequence, this process can be securely dated to ca. 1925?1750/1700 B.C. She argues that a "Dendritic Exchange Network" (p. 13), wherein coastal nodes drew staples from hinterland supply sites, explains the urbanization process.

These conclusions are familiar and defensible enough (see, e.g., W. G. Dever, "Settlement Patterns and Chronology of Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age," in The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives [ed. E. Oren; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1997] 285?301), so long as one recognizes the existence of key players and factors beyond Egypt. Significant Aegean contact is seen at the trade diasporas of Kabri and Avaris, major MBIIa sites in the north and south, respectively (M. Bietak, "Connections between Egypt and the Minoan World: New Results from Tell el?Dab'a Avaris," in Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant: Interconnections in the Second Millennium B.C. [ed. W. V. Davies and L. Schofield; London: British Museum Press, 1995] 19?28; W.?D. Niemeier, "Minoan Artisans Traveling Overseas: The Alalakh Frescoes and the Painted Floor at Tel Kabri [Western Galilee]," in Thalassa: L'Egee prehistorique et la mer: Actes de la troisieme Rencontre egeenne internationale de l'Universite de Liege, Station de recherches sous?marines et oceanographiques, Calvi, Corse, 23?25 avril 1990 [Aegaeum 7; Liege: Universite de Liege, 1991] 199?210); and the founding of Hazor in the last phase of MBIIa suggests a weighty Syrian political influence. The theoretical clarity that makes early chapters easier reading may, unfortunately, contribute to an interpretive cul?de?sac at the end. Ashkelon is said to be enigmatic in lacking surrounding sites, but its role in interregional exchange networks might prove coherent if it were viewed outside the "Port Power" model long enough for its self?sufficient export potential (e.g., of wine, olive oil, salt, fish, hippopotamus ivory, and dye) to be taken into consideration. C. dismisses alternative models on grounds that available data re insufficient to study the flow of information. Thus, it is surprising to see an international exchange system and Egyptian policy of magical intimidation alleged on similarly insufficient evidence.

Synthesis always leaves room for refinement. A richer spatial analysis might map more precisely the wadi systems, sea currents, and major geomorphological features. Coupled with such factors as natural and human resources, competing polities, technologies, industries, and ethnic borders, these spatial patterns should reveal more about urbanism than its two?dimensional shape. While such criticism underscores the limits of spatial analysis and the importance of recognizing complexity and information in urbanizing processes, it also credits C. with effectively assembling in this accessible work the materials for deeper discussion.--Christopher Monroe, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 65, 2003

C. uses various theoretical models for the analysis of complex societies to examine textual, pictorial, and archaeological evidence relating to the nature and organization of MB IIA Canaan. The evidence pertaining to Egyptian-Canaanite contacts indicates a fluid relationship that changed over time in response to shifting social, political, and economic developments in both cultures. Egyptian policy toward Canaan ranged from military force to execration rituals. Chronological correlations between Canaanite settlements and Middle Kingdom Egypt indicate that the beginning of the MB IIA in Canaan dates well into the Middle Kingdom period. Development of a fully urbanized society in Canaan set the stage for the rise of the Hyksos to power in Egypt.--V. H. M., Old Testament Abstracts Vol. 25, 2002

It can be recommended not only to specialists in the specific field of 2nd millennium B.C. Levant archaeology, but also to those working in the neighbouring areas (Syria and Egypt), and to scholars interested in more general problems of chronology, international relations, and settlement patterns. Beside the author's original contribution to the subject, these will also find in the volume an up-to-date overview of the archaeological and literary sources, and a critical evaluation of previous scholarly work on the topic, which will help them in approaching an otherwise very complex matter. It will also be useful reading for students in Near Eastern archaeology, who may profit from the short presentation of some of the theoretical models commonly used in the field and from the discussion about the value and limits of different types of sources, and especially for Ph.D. students, as an example of a well-conducted dissertation project, integrating a sound theoretical background, a good knowledge of the material evidence and an awareness of its limits into a convincing historical reconstruction.--Elena Rova, Venice, in Orientalia, Vol. 72, Fasc. 3, 2003

By reviewing the MB IIA material from Palestinian sites the book under consideration undoubtedly provides a firm basis for further research on the relationship and chronology of Egypt and Canaan in Middle Bronze IIA and IIA-IIB. Similar attention should be paid to Levantine synchronisms in the light of the new ultra-short chronology of Mesopotamia. In fact, Bietak's low dating creates a clear correlation with this chronology which is considered the most acceptable by a number of scholars.--Edward Lipinski, Brussels, in Bibliotheca Orientalis 60.1-2 (January-April 2003)

...This is a work of assured scholarship.--W. G. E. Watson, in JSOT 27.5 (2003)

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