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Index Dutch Bronze Age
Index first farmers in the Netherlands

Bronze Age in the Middle East (2300 - 1200 B.C.E.)

Map of important archaeological sites in the Middle East

Archaeological periods

|===years===|: Before Christian Era (B.C.E.)
The Middle Bronze I period corresponds roughly to the First Intermediate Period in Ancient
Egypt, a time of general desintegration of the Old Kingdom. 
2300 2200 2100 2000
|------------------ EB - MB -------------------------------|
|---------- EB IV ------------------|------------ MB I ---------

1900 1800 1700 1600
|----- MB I -------|----i--------ii- MB II -iii------iv--------v-------|
MB I -----|---- MB IIA ----|---- MB IIB -----|------ MB IIC -----

"EB"=Early Bronze Age
"MB"=Middle Bronze Age


A bronze statue in a grave from pharao Pepi, 2300 B.C.E. contained tin from Cornwall, U.K. . (source: Where Troy once stood, I. Wilkens 1990) So one can conclude at least 2 things:

  • the Egyptians knew how to cast bronze long before that date
  • there were extensive trade routes throughout the mediterranian and Northsea

MIDDLE BRONZE AGE (2200 - 1570 B.C.E.)
Most of the following material was exhumed in the Bronze Age cemetery at Gibeon (el Jib) and the northern cemetery Beth Shan. Both cemeteries still remain extremely important in any discussion of the culture of this period.

There is limited evidence of urban or village life throughout the region. Temporary structures, more like sheds than houses, have been uncovered on the sides of some tells (e.g. Jericho [Tell es-Sultan]) and other hillsides. In the Negev, village sites had circular huts with stone pillar in the center. At most sites there is no sedentary evidence of this culture except for the numerous tombs.

Copper and not bronze weapons occur in a few tombs. The most common form, the curled-tangled javelin point, probably attached to a wooden pole by bending the curled tail into a wooden slot on the pole. Other types of weapons, such as a riveted dagger with a slight mid-rib for added strength and the crescentic axehead, are rare. Such types of weapons do not continue into the Middle Bronze II.
*Maxwell-Hyslop, R. "Daggers and Swords in West Asia," IRAQ VIII: 1-65.
Tufnell, Olga. Lachish IV: The Bronze Age. (London, 1958), Pls. 21:6-9; 22-24.

Picture below: Bronze weapon. Dagger blade with slide midrib and rivet holes

Picture below: Bronze weapon. Javelin point with curled tang

Bronze replaces copper beginning in Middle Bronze IIA. The "duck- bill" axehead with two elliptical holes is an identifiable form of Middle Bronze IIA and may have its origin in earlier forms of the Middle Bronze I and even Early Bronze Age axes (crescentic axes). The narrow chisel-shaped axehead occurs in Middle Bronze IIB-C contexts. Spear points with long or short sockets replace the curled-tang spearpoint of Middle Bronze I. In Middle Bronze II swords are broad with added midribs to increase durability of the form. Handles are made of wood and limestone pommels form the top part of the dagger. Shorter swords, or daggers, seem to become more common in the latter half of Middle Bronze II.
*Maxwell-Hyslop, R. "Daggers and Swords in West Asia," IRAQ VIII:1-65.
Guy, P.L.O. Megiddo Tombs (Chicago, 1938), Pl.163:8.
Tufnell, Olga. Lachish IV: The Bronze Age. (London, 1958), Pls. 21:6-9; 22-24.


Corpus of Middle Bronze weapons from Gibeon (el Jib) and Beth Shan


1500 1400 1300 1200 
|--------------- LB I ----------|------------- LB II ----------------| 
|------------ LB I ----------|----- LB IIA -----|----- LB IIB ---|---

Bronze Age sword

LATE BRONZE AGE(1570 - 1200 B.C.E.)
Egypt dominated the political life of Palestine during the Late Bronze Age, a period contemporary with the Egyptian New Kingdom (see, ANEP, 313-315, 320-331). The first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty defeated the Hyksos (="Princess of foreign lands") at Avaris and continued the battle to Sharuhen (ANET, pp. 233-234) in southern Palestine. Thothmosis I and Thothmosis III extended Egyptian influence over the entire region from the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates, the great river that flows backwards. Under the descendants of Thothmosis III, Egypt exercised full hegemony over Palestine(ANET, pp. 234-252) by establishing systems of control over vital trade routes and local principalities. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty(ANET, pp. 250-252), Egyptian control may have declined somewhat due to the general lack of attention to political and military matters during the Amarna period (1400 B.C.E. - 1200 B.C.E.).
Around 1400 B.C.E. the Egypts conquer Jericho.
The Nineteenth Dynasty kings quickly reestablished Egyptian control under Seti I. By the middle of the thirteenth century (ANET, pp. 252- 260), Egypt lost control of much of northern Syria to the Hittite kings (ANET, pp. 255-258). The two major kings of this dynasty, Seti I and his son Ramesis II, carried out campaigns near Beth Shan. Later in the thirteenth century, Merneptah may have campaigned in Palestine if there is any historical credulity to his hymn of victory, sometimes called the Israelite stela.

Two major types of arrowheads (ANEP, 805 - inscribed javelin heads) occur in this period: long, slender arrowheads (most of the Late Bronze Age) and small blunt ones (generally thirteenth century). Arrowheads with a pronounced midrib or with a swelling at the base may date to the end of the thirteenth century.
*Cross, F.M. Jr & Milik, J.T. "A Typological Study of the el Khadr Javelin- and Arrow-Heads," ADAJ 3:15-23.
Tufnell, Olga. Lachish IV: The Bronze Age. (London, 1958), Pl. 25:1-6,17-22, 26,30,35,36,43, 47, 48, 52, 54-62, 66, 67.

Although one cannot be fully certain that the following objects are not knobs for lids or daggers (see Middle Bronze weapons) or furniture, the design and style of these knobs are almost identical to connectors on chariot fittings from the Tomb of Tutankhamun and as depicted on New Kingdom reliefs. A sizable collection of such knobs occur in Beth Shan Strata X through VII.


1100 1000 900 800
------- IR I --------------------------------|------ IR II ---------- 
------- IR I --------------------------------|------------------------
-------------|---- IR IB ------|----- IR IIA -----|----- IR IIB ------|-- 
700 600 500 400
----------- IR IIC-------------------|
IRON AGE (1200 - 550 B.C.E.)

The Bronze Age culture does not suddenly disappear in the twelfth century. In fact, culture changes very little in the first half of Iron I at sites like Megiddo or Beth Shan. This may suggest that there is no significant cultural break throughout the entire region at the beginning of the Iron Age. As one examines later levels at these and other sites, however, the Bronze Age culture begins to alter. Courtyard houses, a common Bronze Age form, is replaced by pillared houses at a number of sites in Iron II. Egyptianized artifacts are less common in Iron II except for sites along the immediate coast. Bronze weapons and forms are replaced by iron weapons. New Iron II artifacts begin to appear throughout the entire region. Thus, gradually, it seems, many of the characteristic forms and contexts of Bronze Age culture become less evident in later levels of Iron II, although it would be incorrect to conclude that the Bronze Age culture, we call Canaanite, disappeared entirely due to points of continuity that continue unabated from Bronze Age to Iron Age (e.g. compare the artifacts in Shrine 1 Sarepta with the temple of stratum VII-VI Beth Shan).

The Iron Age is divided into two subsections, Iron I and Iron II. Iron I (1200-1000) illustrates both continuity and discontinuity with the previous Late Bronze Age. There is no definitive cultural break between the thirteenth and twelfth century throughout the entire region, although certain new features in the hill country, Transjordan and coastal region may suggest the appearance of the Aramaean and Sea People groups. There is evidence, however, that shows strong continuity with Bronze Age culture, although as one moves later into Iron I the culture begins to diverge more significantly from that of the late second millennium.
Most weapon styles continue into Iron I without any significant change. The weapons also continue to be made of bronze, though iron weapons (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh 113) begin to appear.

A confederation of Hebrew tribes known as Israelites decisively defeated the Cananites in about 1125 B.C.E.. The Philistines, however, who had established an independent state along the southern coast, were another story.Because of their superior military organization and their iron weapons, in about 1050BC, they inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Israelites.
As a result of this defeat, the Israelites united and established a monarchy. The most famous of the Israeli kings, David, ultimately defeated the Philistines shortly after 1000 B.C.E..
King David took advantage of the weakness of adjacent states and the unity of his own people to establish a large independent country, with Jerusalem as its capital. Peace and prosperity continued under David's son and successor, Solomon, but at his death in 922 B.C.E. the country was divided: the north remained Israel and the south became Judah. A weakened and divided country could not sustain its independence indefinitely; consequently, Israel fell to Assyria in about 722 B.C.E. and the Babylonians conquered Judah in 586 B.C.E.. This defeat resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of most of the Jews to Babylon -- the so-called Babylonian captivity.
Several Iron I knives have bone handles with pommel end (Tel Qasile St. XII, Beth Shan St. V). The blade is fasten into a slot in the handle.
Iron II (1000-550 B.C.E.) witnessed the rise of the states of Judah and Israel in the tenth-ninth century. These small principalities exercise considerable control over their particular regions due in part to the decline of the great powers, Assyria and Egypt, from about 1200 to 900 B.C.E.. Beginning in the eighth century and certainly in the seventh century, Assyria reestablishes its authority over the eastern Mediterranean area and exercises almost complete control. The northern state of Israel is obliterated in 722/721 by King Sargon and its inhabitants taken into exile.
Aharoni, Yohanan. The Archaeology of the Land of Israel. Philadelphia, 1978. pp. 153-279.
Kenyon, Kathleen & Moorey, P.R.S. The Bible and Recent Archaeology. Atlanta, 1987., pp. 51-138.
Mazar, Amihai. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible New York, 1985., pp. 295-550.

When exactly the Israelite tribes settled or conquered the hill country of Palestine is somewhat debated due in part to a lack of conclusive evidence. Certainly in the twelfth century we begin to find evidence of a variant type of village culture in the hill country composed of small unfortified settlements, pillared houses, numerous silos, limited pottery repertoire and presence of collared-rim storage jar. There appear to be numerous such sites particularly but not exclusively north of Jerusalem in the tribal inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh; in fact, there is a definite growth in settled population all along the hill country spur in Iron I. This culture pattern may extend into the lowlands at some sites later in Iron I (Megiddo).

Location of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

Short history of Israel/Palestine between 103 B.C.E. and 70 C.E.
103-76 B.C.E.: Emperor Alexander Janneus - many wars
76-67 B.C.E.: Queen Alexandra - peace and prosperity
67-63: Civil wars, dry weather, bad years
63: Roman power reaches Israel
49: Civil war in Rome, Israel must pay higher taxes: 700 talents of silver each year (=about 1,5 mln $!)
44: Cassius
40: Parths invade Israel, Antigonus king
37: Romans put Herodes on the throne, than Herodes figts Antigonus and pays the Roman soldiers so they`ll leave
...Herodes builts Masada (history in German)
37-31: Herodes gives peace and prosperity, although he wastes a lot of money outside Israel
31: An earthquake makes 30,000 victimes
30: Cleopatra makes a deal with Herodes: he may use the area around Jericho when he pays large amounts of money.
25: Dry climate,
20: Herodes declares a law, that puts 1/3 off the taxes 
66-73 C.E..: The defeat of the Jews at Masada ended the First Jewish Rebellion.
70 C.E.: Romans destroy Jerusalem
132-135 C.E.: Second Jewish Rebellion

More information

Aharoni, Y. "New Aspects of the Israelite Occupation in the North."
Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, Essays in Honor of Nelson Gleuck. (New York, 1970).
Finkelstein, Israel. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. (Jerusalem, 1988).
Weippert, Manfred. The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine. (Illinois, 1971).

You can also read my literature sources.
Or you can read some books by / contact
1993: The Highland of Judah During the Biblical Period (Hebrew + English detailed contents and summary), Tel Aviv University, 2 vols., 762+40 pp.
1990: Excavations in Biblical Hebron. Qadmoniot (Hebrew)
1990: The Highland of Judah - From Nomadism to a National Monarchy. in Na'aman, Finkelstein
1993: The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, E. Stern.

With acknowledgement to the Brandeis University, United States


More info about the writer / editor

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