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Egyptian Imperial Economy in Canaan: Reaction to the Climate Crisis at the End of the Late Bronze Age


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In this article we discuss four datasets that provide evidence for the expansion of grain growing in Canaan in the second half of the 13th century and the 12th century BCE: the faunal and flint records from Megiddo, the pollen diagram for the Sea of Galilee and the ancient DNA study of Bronze and Iron Age cattle in the Levant. Efforts to expand dry farming in Canaan were probably related to the dry climate event in the later phases of the Late Bronze Age, which has recently been detected in several pollen records from the Eastern Mediterranean. We discuss textual evidence related to drought and famine that struck the Near East at that time. We then suggest that the Egyptian administration in Canaan initiated the extension of dry farming in order to stabilise the situation in the southern and eastern fringe areas of the Levant and supply grain to areas in the northern Near East which, according to textual data, were badly afflicted by the climate crisis.
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Israel Finkelstein, Dafna Langgut, Meirav Meiri and Lidar Sapir-Hen*
Abstract: In this article we discuss four datasets
that provide evidence for the expansion of grain
growing in Canaan in the second half of the 13th
century and the 12th century BCE: the faunal and
the Sea of Galilee and the ancient DNA study of
Bronze and Iron Age cattle in the Levant. Efforts
to expand dry farming in Canaan were probably
related to the dry climate event in the later phases
of the Late Bronze Age, which has recently been
detected in several pollen records from the East-
ern Mediterranean. We discuss textual evidence
related to drought and famine that struck the Near
East at that time. We then suggest that the Egyp-
tian administration in Canaan initiated the exten-
sion of dry farming in order to stabilise the situa-
tion in the southern and eastern fringe areas of
the Levant and supply grain to areas in the north-
ern Near East which, according to textual data,
Keywords: Late Bronze, Canaan, Egypt, grain,
climate crisis, Megiddo, faunal assemblages,
Egypt ruled in Canaan for over three centuries,
from the takeover by Thutmose III to its with-
drawal from the region, probably during the reign
of Ramesses VI. Pharaonic dominance in every
aspect of Canaanite life is depicted in the Amarna
correspondence of the 14th century BCE and Egyp-
tian impact on the agricultural production can be
gleaned from 12th century Hieratic inscriptions
found in southern Canaan. Yet, the textual evi-
dence does not shed light on macroeconomy: had
the Egyptian administration implemented policies
Archaeology has the potential to answer this
question. In this article we discuss four datasets:
       
Bronze Age layers at Megiddo in the Jezreel Val-
ley, the pollen diagram for the Sea of Galilee, and
ancient DNA results for Bronze and Iron Age cat-
tle from different sites in Israel.1 Together, they
       
grain during the later phases of the Late Bronze
Age, which we interpret as stemming from impe-
rial decisions related to the dry climate crisis in
the second half of the 13th and the 12th century
New Data
Megiddo Fauna
In order to detect economic changes in datasets
such as faunal assemblages, researchers need to
work with detailed information. What is required
is evidence beyond general observations on the
“Late Bronze Age”; we refer to assemblages from
different phases of the period: before, during and
after the rule of Egypt in the region. Most archae-
ological reports do not provide this kind of resolu-
tion. For sites which do present data according to
foremost a good grip on stratigraphy, relative chro-
nology (that is, ceramic typology) and absolute
chronology (meaning radiocarbon dating). And in
order to avoid bias that stems from fragmentary
extensive, ideally from more than one location at
the given site.
Megiddo is an ideal site for such an investiga-
tion. It has a continuous, tight sequence of layers
which cover the entire Late Bronze Age (Table 1),
the ceramic record is intensive, enabling a reliable
relative chronology (MARTIN 2013; in press), and
the entire sequence is accompanied by a rigorous
programme of radiocarbon dating, providing a
secure absolute chronology (TOFFOLO et al. 2014;
BOAR ETTO in press). The Late Bronze layers were
Ägypten und Levante/Egypt and the Levant 27, 2017, 249–259
© 2017 by Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien
* All authors: Tel Aviv University, Archaeology and Ancient
Near Eastern Cultures Department. Langgut, Meiri and
Sapir-Hen also: The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
1 So far, Megiddo has not supplied archaeobotanical materi-
al which can shed light on the issue discussed here.
Israel Finkelstein, Dafna Langgut, Meirav Meiri and Lidar Sapir-Hen250
studied in a reasonably large exposure (twelve 5 ×
5 squares in Area K and eight in Area H – the two
excavation areas which make up the backbone of
the discussion below; Fig. 1) and supplied large
factors makes the site a unique laboratory for the
study of minute changes in material culture and
economic practices.
Indeed, the analysis of animal remains from
Megiddo offers a rare opportunity to examine
changes in livestock exploitation through time.
The above layers, dated to different phases of the
Late Bronze Age (Table 1), yielded large assem-
blages of animal remains, which were studied in
depth (SAPIR-HEN in press). Here, we focus on evi-
dence for the exploitation of livestock animals
from the two stratigraphic trenches at the site.
Area H, located in the north-western sector of the
mound, close to the palace, features relatively
     
to the ruling groups (LANGGUT et al. 2016; ARIE in
press). Its animal economy is typical of a consum-
ing society that does not manage herds, but rather
receives its meat from outside sources. This is
manifested in the presence of meat-rich parts of
prime-age animals. Area K, located in the south-
eastern sector of the site, is characterised by
domestic buildings of lesser quality. Here, animal
economy patterns are typical of a producing socie-
ty, i.e. where animals are raised nearby and
slaughtered on-site; all parts are present, and ani-
mals are kept to an older age. Area K’s primary
Table 1 Megiddo Late Bronze layers
Period Approximate Date* Area H Area K
Late Bronze I Second half of 16th and 15th centu ry H-15 K-10**
Late Bronze IIA 14th and early 13th century H-14 K-9
Late Bronze IIB Early 13th–early 12th century H-13 K-8, K-7
Late Bronze III Early to late 12th century H-12*** K-6
* See e. g.
TOFFOLO et al. 2014.
** Starts in the Middle Bronze III
*** Continues into the early Iron I
Fig. 1 Aerial view of Megiddo, looking south, marking the two areas of excavation discussed in the article.
Egyptian Imperial Economy in Canaan: Reaction to the Climate Crisis at the End of the Late Bronze Age 251
and secondary products were used locally and also
distributed further (for details, see SAPIR-HEN in
Despite the above-mentioned differences
between the inhabitants of the two areas – con-
sumption and production groups (expressed in the
the Late Bronze III they exhibit similar animal
frequencies. The most pronounced site-wide
change in the animal economy during the Late
Bronze Age (beginning in the Late Bronze IIA) is
the increase in cattle frequencies (Table 2; for
details see SAPIR-HEN in press). Starting with
~12 % cattle in the livestock (sheep, goats and cat-
tle) in the Late Bronze I, a gradual increase is evi-
dent from the Late Bronze IIA with 18 %, through
the Late Bronze IIB with 24 %, to the Late Bronze
III with 28 % cattle in the livestock (the numbers
are the average for the two areas).
Another piece of important information is the
        
similar, as the ruling groups continued to receive
prime cuts. This is not the case in Area K: in the
Late Bronze I, the young age of cattle (along with
their low frequency) does not attest a tilt toward a
use for agriculture. Yet, starting in the Late Bronze
IIA cattle were kept to an older age (Table 3; for
details, see SAPIR-HEN in press). In the Late Bronze
IIA, together with their growing importance, no
culling of cattle occurs before the age of two years.
This trend continues in the later phases of the Late
Bronze: the growing importance of cattle in the
economy (in terms of relative frequency) is accom-
panied by keeping most animals later than the age
of two years. The combination of these factors,
occurring concurrently in the Late Bronze IIA and
intensifying in the later phases of the Late Bronze,
suggests that cattle were increasingly exploited for
the plough (see e. g. GRIGSON 1995; SASSON 2005),
and hence demonstrates the gradual growing
importance of dry farming around Megiddo.
Table 3 Survivorship of cattle to age 2 and 4 years in the dif-
ferent Late Bronze phases in Area K (based on fusion stages,
following SILVER 1969)
Le vel /Age K-10 K-9 K-8 , K-7 K-6
2yr 41 (12)* 100 (8) 82 (43) 100 (11)
4yr 50 (4) 80 (5) 55 (20) 66 (18)
* First number: % fused; in parenthesis: NISP
Other Faunal Assemblages
Comparing the Megiddo results to data from other
full sequence of the Late Bronze Age, well-divid-
graphic and chronological control and large
enough datasets. Still, even the available fragmen-
Two sites in the Jezreel Valley show high fre-
quencies of cattle during the Late Bronze Age.
The Tel Qashish assemblage (HORWITZ 2003) is too
small to allow secure comparison, but a trend of
increasing cattle frequencies was observed, from
33 % of the livestock in the Late Bronze I to 68 %
et al. (2005) studied domestic dwellings from the
Late Bronze I and II. The small sample (total of
190 NISP) produced similar high cattle frequen-
cies in both periods – 20 % of the livestock. Both
      
Beyond the Jezreel Valley, at Tel Dor cattle make
up 37 % of the livestock in the Late Bronze Age
and the animals were kept to an older age (BAR-
TOSIEWICZ and LISK in press); no temporal trend
within the period is available.
On the southern coastal plain and in the
Shephelah, the picture is varied. It is also more
Late Bronze IIB has a 13 % cattle share in the live-
stock; no age data is given (LEV-TOV 2012). Tel
Miqne/Ekron of the Late Bronze II has 26 % cat-
2 The fact that Area K produced bigger samples is due to the
larger area excavated and possibly different, status-based
animal-economy practices (SAPIR HEN et al. 2016).
Table 2 Frequencies of cattle in the livestock in the Late Bronze Age strata at Megiddo2
Level % Cattle Total NISP* Level % Cattle Total NISP*
H-15 11 257 K-10 14.5 571
H-14 16 112 K-9 20 625
H-13 26 353 K-8 /7 2 3 1717
H-12 28 531 K-6 28 309
Israel Finkelstein, Dafna Langgut, Meirav Meiri and Lidar Sapir-Hen252
tle, exploited to old age (LEV-TOV 2010). Tel Beth-
shemesh of the Late Bronze III has 18 % cattle;
       
meat and work (TAMAR et al. 2013). Lachish has
~25 % cattle in both the Late Bronze IIB and the
Late Bronze III, with exploitation of both primary
and secondary products (CROFT 2004).
HORWITZ and MILEVSKI (2001) reviewed data
from the Middle Bronze III and Late Bronze I/II
strata in different parts of the region, and noted an
increase in cattle frequencies at several sites, with-
      
pattern as an indication of an increased intensity
of agricultural production in the Late Bronze Age.
They suggested that the need for agricultural sur-
plus was “a direct result of economic demands
excreted by the Egyptians” (ibid., 300).
Finally, and most important, are three sites
which were directly associated with the Egyptian
administration in Canaan. We refer to Beth Shean
(HORWITZ 2006), Kamid el-Loz, location of Kumidi
(BÖKÖNYI 1990), and Tell Kazel, location of Sumur
(CHAHOUD 2015). All three show high frequencies
of cattle during the Late Bronze Age II, ranging
between 25 and 50 % of the livestock; age informa-
tion is not available, and temporal trends within
the Late Bronze Age could not be examined.
All in all, and with all due caution (because of
the fragmentary nature of the evidence), it seems
to us that faunal assemblages across Canaan show
an emphasis on cattle exploitation for the plough
ing cattle frequencies and animals that were kept
to older age.
Megiddo Flint Assemblage
The detailed Megiddo stratigraphic-chronological
record offers a glimpse into a development in the
material culture of the site, which seems to be
connected to an expansion of dry farming.3 We
which indicate harvesting activities, that is, sickle
blades, geometric sickles and other glossed items.
With all due caution (as a result of the relatively
small assemblages in some of the relevant layers),
increase in the percentage of these tools (in the
total number of tools) can seemingly be observed
in both Areas H and K (Table 4, based on ELLIS
2013 for Levels K-8, K-7 and K-6; ROSENBERG-
YEFET in press for Area H and Levels K-10 and
K-9). Since Megiddo is the only site which sup-
plies data for a close examination per sub-phases
of the Late Bronze Age, we cannot tell if this trend
characterises other places and regions in Canaan.
Sea of Galilee Pollen
The pollen record from the Sea of Galilee is the
result of a study which was carried out in unprece-
dented resolution, accompanied by rigorous radio-
carbon dating (LANGGUT, FINKELSTEIN and LITT
  inter alia, wind-transported pol-
len from areas west of the lake, including the Jez-
reel Valley. The pollen diagram reveals two signif-
icant peaks in the cerealia-type pollen (cereals)
BCE (LANGGUT et al. 2015, 222). Cerealia-type
pollen, which is distinguished from that of other
and pronounced annulus around the pore, includes
wild and cultivated cereals (e. g., VAN ZEIST,
BARUCH and BOTTEMA 2009; LANGGUT et al. 2014).
Whether these were indeed two different peaks
with a short low phase between them, or one peri-
od of increase in grain growing, is impossible to
say. This growth in cereal-pollen is especially
noteworthy in view of the relatively low sedentary
settlement activity in most of Canaan in the Late
Bronze Age (e. g., GONEN 1984, 66; for the western
Jezreel Valley, see FINKELSTEIN et al. 2006; for the
Beth-shean Valley, see MAEIR 2010, 178 and maps
on pp. 160, 166; for the Lower Galilee, see GAL
1992, 13, 56).
3 In “expansion” we mean areas devoted to grain growing. Dry farming in the area of Megiddo evidently means wheat.
on ELLIS 2013; ROSENBERG-YEFET in press).
Area H H-15 H-14 H-13 H-12
Area K K-10 K-9 K-8 , K-7 K-6
91120225 81420
Egyptian Imperial Economy in Canaan: Reaction to the Climate Crisis at the End of the Late Bronze Age 253
Ancient DNA of Cattle
A recent study of animal mobility in the Eastern
Mediterranean in the Late Bronze and early Iron
Ages (MEIRI et al.
DNA cattle sequences from the southern Levant.
Ten taurine cattle from Megiddo and Azekah (the
latter in the Shephelah of Judah), spanning from
the Late Bronze IIA to the Iron Age IIB, yielded
DNA. The results show an increase in the frequen-
cy of mitochondrial Haplogroup T1, a unique
genetic signature which is dominant in Africa:
ing to the Iron IIA–B (Levels H-5 and H-4 at
Megiddo, Iron IIA and IIB respectively). Further-
       
Megiddo (Area H, Levels H-5 and H-4 of the Iron
IIA and Iron IIB respectively), which is dominant
in Egypt today (BONFIGLIO et al. 2012; OLIVIERI et
al. 2015). These data suggest that Egyptian taurine
cattle were translocated to the southern Levant in
the Late Bronze Age or before. The period of
Egypt’s rule in Canaan in the Late Bronze is the
most reasonable.
These taurine cattle data should be combined
with another piece of genetic information that we
have detected. One of the mitochondrial haplotype
T1c samples from Megiddo carries a Y-chromo-
MEIRI et al.
2017). This sample, which comes from a late Iron
IIA context (Level H-5, late Iron IIA), provides the
earliest evidence for hybridisation between taurine
cattle and zebu in the region. When was this done
and why?
Regarding “when”, the scarce data at hand (a
single sample) indicates that the taurine cattle-
zebu hybridisation could have taken place any
time before c. 840 BCE (the date of destruction of
Level H-5). The most logical date would be in the
Late Bronze Age, when Canaan was a province of
the Egyptian Empire and was governed by Egyp-
tian bureaucrats. Due to the small number of sam-
ples that yielded DNA, we could not determine if
Fig. 2 The Bronze and Iron Ages palynological diagram of the Sea of Galilee, presenting the curve of the total Mediterranean
arboreal pollen together with the curve of the cerealia (cereals) pollen type. Note the dry event at the end of the Late Bronze Age
(bottom) and the contemporaneous growth in pollen of cereals (top).
Israel Finkelstein, Dafna Langgut, Meirav Meiri and Lidar Sapir-Hen254
the taurine-zebu crossbreeding occurred in the
southern Levant, or whether crossbreeds were
brought to Canaan from Egypt.
crossbreeding taurine cattle with zebu. Zebu have
a better heat tolerance (due to low metabolic rates,
many large sweat glands and large skin surface) as
well as a better resistance to insects, ticks and pro-
tozoa (EPSTEIN 1971). Indeed, zebu cattle and their
crossbreds are dominant in arid regions such as
the Indian subcontinent and most of Africa. The
zebu is, therefore, advantageous as a plough ani-
mal, especially in hot and arid zones, such as the
eastern and southern fringe areas of Canaan.
Therefore, the zebu evidence may point to a direct
involvement of the Egyptian administration in
Canaan in the expansion of grain production.
The four new datasets discussed here point in
the same direction – expansion of grain growing
in Canaan starting in the Late Bronze IIA and
reaching a peak in the Late Bronze III. In absolute
terms, this means from the 14th or early 13th centu-
ry to the 12th century BCE.
The textual information
The Amarna letters contain information about roy-
al Egyptian estates in the Jezreel Valley (ALT
1924; NAAMAN 1988). Especially noteworthy is EA
a town named Shunama = the mound in the vil-
lage of Sulam in the middle of the valley, 14 km to
the east of Megiddo. Also noteworthy is EA 250,
valley (for the texts see MORAN 1992, 303–304,
363). According to NAAMAN (1988) the curvèe
workers were brought from the vicinity as well as
from places as far as the Egyptian centre of Jaffa
on the coastal plain. Crown lands devoted to grain
growing are also mentioned in relation to the
Egyptian administration centre of Sumur on the
coast (EA 60 – MORAN 1992, 131–132) and royal
granaries in Jaffa are referred to in an Amarna
tablet (EA 294; MORAN 1992, 336 337). NAAMAN
(1988) interpreted the reference in the annals of
Thutmose III to “harvest which his majesty car-
ried off from the Megiddo arable plots, 207,300 [+
x] sacks of wheat…” as well as the text of Letter 2
from Taanach as evidence for the existence of
Egyptian royal estates in the valley already a cen-
tury before the Amarna period. The former text
refers to a considerable amount of grain. There is
simply no textual evidence for the later centuries
of the Late Bronze Age, but one can assume that
the phenomenon of Pharaonic estates continued
until the withdrawal of Egypt from Canaan, in the
late 12th century BCE.
Hieratic inscriptions found in 20th Dynasty
(Late Bronze III) sites in southern Israel (possibly
also two or more 19
th Dynasty ostraca from Tel
Sera – Stefan Wimmer, personal communication),
such as Lachish, Tel Sera and Tel Haror (summary
in WIMMER 2008) support this notion. They pro-
vide a glimpse into the Egyptian economic man-
agement of Canaan, especially in reference to har-
vest taxes, mentioning large quantities of grain
1999; SWEENEY 2004). Their distribution – mainly
in the southern part of the Shephelah and coastal
plain – is noteworthy and will be discussed below.
The textual materials described above testify to
the importance of grain growing in Canaan and to
the involvement of the Egyptian administration in
grain culture, in royal and temple estates and
through taxation of the local city-states (GOLDWAS-
SER 1984; NAAMAN 1988). But they are spotty and
do not provide the necessary temporal informa-
tion, that is, they do not disclose changes in the
Egyptian economic conduct over time. This aspect
is now provided by the above-discussed datasets,
the Jezreel Valley in particular and probably in
Canaan in general, starting in the Late Bronze IIA
and accelerating in the Late Bronze IIB and Late
Bronze III. What could be the reason for this pro-
It is doubtful if grain from Canaan was sent to
Egypt, as the Nile Valley, the Delta and the Fayum
depression constituted a grain growing power-
house in antiquity (e. g. CASSON 1954; 1980). It is
ing as a decades-long policy was practiced in
order to support Egyptian troops and administra-
tors in Canaan. Both the textual and archaeologi-
cal materials seem to indicate that on a daily basis
(to differ from the few major military campaigns
to the north), Canaan was dominated by a relative-
ly small number of bureaucrats and troops (note
requests in the Amarna letters to send 50 or 100
soldiers in order to pacify a local crisis).
It seems to us that the reason for the expansion
of dry farming in Canaan is related to a major dry
climate event that took place in the Eastern Medi-
Egyptian Imperial Economy in Canaan: Reaction to the Climate Crisis at the End of the Late Bronze Age 255
terranean and Ancient Near East in the Late
Bronze Age. This climate crisis has recently been
detected in studies of pollen records in sediment
cores from the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea
al. 2014), the coast of Syria (KANIEWSKI et al. 2010;
SORREL and MATHIS 2016), Cyprus (KANIEWSKI et
al. 2013) and the Nile Delta (BERNHARDT, HORTON
and STANLY 2012). The Sea of Galilee and Dead
Sea studies provide a relatively accurate date of
the dry period to c. 1250–1100 BCE – approxi-
mately in parallel to the period of growth in
Megiddo and the peak in cereal pollen at the Sea
of Galilee.
Needless to say, in the “green” parts of the
Levant, including the Jezreel Valley, the dry cli-
mate period is hardly supposed to bring about col-
lapse. Ten or 20 % reduction in precipitation from
the current annual average of c. 550 mm at Megid-
do could have been overcome by economic plan-
ning, especially when the country was under
imperial rule. Life-threatening situations resulting
from prolonged droughts could have developed in
the southern and eastern fringe areas of the Levant
as well as in Anatolia and the north. Regarding the
Levant, we refer mainly to the ca. 200–300 mm
annual precipitation line that characterises the sys-
tem of urban centres from Amman in the south via
Damascus, Hama and Homs, to Aleppo in the
north. Deteriorating precipitation along this east-
ern frontier can bring about major economic trou-
ble, accompanied by social unrest and demograph-
ic upheaval, with major political consequences of
the kind seen in Syria in recent years (e. g. KELLEY
et al. 2015). The same holds true for the southern
fringe – the Gaza, Besor, southern Shephelah line.
In the far north, a critical factor connected to dry
events could be cold spells. Surveying the evi-
dence for the period between 950 and 1070 CE,
ELLENBLUM (2012) has shown how years of drought
and cold spells in the northern steppe regions of
the Near East can destroy yields and spread havoc
by driving large groups of people from their
homes to raid fertile areas in search of food.
There is no textual evidence for the situation in
the southern and eastern fringe zones of the
Levant for the dry event period c. 1250–1100 BCE.
One can only assume that it was in the ultimate
interest of the Egyptian administration to prevent
chaos in these areas, for instance raids of “green”
areas by displaced groups, which could have
destabilised its grip on Canaan.
The northern areas of the Ancient Near East
are better illuminated by textual materials, from
Hatti, Ugarit and Emar in the north via Aphek in
Canaan to Egypt in the south. The Amarna tablets
provide a detailed account of life in Canaan in
particular and the Ancient Near East in general, in
BCE. There is no mention in the correspondence
for droughts and famine, or an urgent need for
shipment of grain. This means that at that time the
climate upheaval had not yet started. Indeed, a wet
period during the middle of the 14th century BCE
        
(Fig. 2).
  
in the north dates to the mid-13th century, when a
Hittite queen writes to Ramesses II: “I have no
grain in my lands” (KUB 21.38; SINGER 1999, 715).
The Aphek letter, which can be dated quite pre-
cisely to c. 1230 BCE according to historically-
known individuals mentioned in it (SINGER 1983),
refers to an urgent need of grain in the north. To
        
request for grain was addressed to an Egyptian
th centu-
ry Pharaoh Merneptah reports in the Great Karnak
Inscription that he “caused grain to be taken in
ships, to keep alive the land of Hatti” (WAINWRIGHT
1960). The Ugarit letters describe the situation in
the late 13th and early 12th century BCE. The king
of Hatti writes to Ugarit (RS 20.212) about a vital
grain shipment, which is “a matter of death or life”
(SINGER 1999, 716). A letter from a prominent Hit-
     
my lands”. And a letter from the Urtenu archive
says that the “gates of the house are sealed. Since
there is famine in your house, we shall starve to
death. A living soul of your country, you will no
longer see” (RS 34.152; SINGER 2000, 24). Finally,
let us mention that the price of grain in Egypt
increased dramatically in the middle of the 20th
Dynasty (' 1933), peaking in the second half
of the 12th century (JANSSEN-
haps because of transportation of grain to the
north. Put together, the textual evidence covers the
period from the middle of the 13
th century to the
second half of the 12th century BCE. This is con-
temporaneous to the dry event traced in the pollen
record from the Sea of Galilee, as well as to the
surge in dry farming in Canaan as detected in
Galilee cereals pollen curve.
Israel Finkelstein, Dafna Langgut, Meirav Meiri and Lidar Sapir-Hen256
Egypt must have been concerned with the
events in Canaan and could have seen the situation
in the north as both threatening and advantageous
to its strategic economic and geo-political goals.
The Nile Empire, which, thanks to the river-
regime, was protected from danger of droughts
and famine in the Near East, needed to act. We
have no way of knowing whether grain growing
expanded in the Nile Valley, the Delta and the Fay-
um depression. The new data presented above
indicate that the Egyptian administration in
Canaan – no doubt instructed by the imperial
authorities – took steps to address the problem.
Expanding dry farming in the “green” parts of
Canaan could have provided an immediate solu-
tion to the problem on its southern and eastern
fringes. We have no textual evidence for the east-
ern fringe. For the south, we have the texts of the
hieratic inscriptions. Almost all of them come
from sites located close to the southern fringe, in
fact from the southernmost urban centres of the
period (Lachish, Tel Sera, Tel Haror, Ashkelon).
They may testify not simply to taxation and the
storage of large quantities of grain, but to attempts
to stabilise the situation in the area, which must
have suffered sorely from the deteriorating climate
conditions. It is noteworthy that archaeology testi-
      
the Beer-sheba Valley in the Middle Bronze II–III
to the area of the southern Shephelah in the Late
Bronze Age (and back to the valley in the Iron I –
HERZOG 1994). Further to the north-west, the
southernmost settlement line in the Late Bronze
Age can be found in the mounds along Nahal
Besor, while in both the Middle Bronze II–III and
the Iron I–IIA it stretches farther to the south (for
the Middle Bronze Age, see FINKELSTEIN and
LANGGUT 2014; for the early Iron Age, see GAZIT
In addition, Canaan was closer to areas in the
north, which were in urgent need of help, than the
heartland of Egypt. And it was well-equipped with
ports, such as Jaffa and Acco, to facilitate the
shipping of grain along the coast of the Mediterra-
nean to Ugarit and beyond. From the perspective
of Egypt, sending grain to the north could have
      -
tant, valuable strategically.
The datasets presented here seem to testify to the
expansion of dry farming in Canaan in the later
phases of the Late Bronze Age. The detailed fau-
  
apparently indicate growth in the quantity of cattle
evidence, although based on a limited number of
items, seems to portray growth in cereal harvest-
ing at that time. Expansion of cereal farming is
also attested in the pollen record from the Sea of
Galilee. Finally, ancient DNA study of cattle from
Bronze and Iron Age sites in Israel testify to the
importation of breeds from Egypt and to cross-
breeding of taurine cattle with Egyptian zebu – the
latter strong and well-adapted to dry, hot condi-
tions – probably during the Late Bronze Age.
These datasets seem to be related to evidence for a
contemporary dry climate event detected in sever-
al pollen records from the Eastern Mediterranean.
The increase of grain growing land could have
been the result of an economic decision taken by
the Egyptian imperial administration in Canaan in
order to cope with the crisis: stabilise the situation
along the southern and eastern desert fringe areas
of Canaan and supply grain to the badly stricken
lands of the northern Levant and beyond. All
records discussed here, including the textual evi-
dence for droughts and famine, assemble to the
same period of time, c. 1250–1100 BCE.
The studies that led to the results presented in this
article were generously supported by the Neubauer
Foundation (as part of the “Neubauer Near East
Paleo-Climate Project”) and the European
Research Council grant agreement 229418 (paleo-
climate); the Chaim Katzman Archaeology Fund
yses); and the Shmunis Family Anthropology
Institute (ancient DNA).
Egyptian Imperial Economy in Canaan: Reaction to the Climate Crisis at the End of the Late Bronze Age 257
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... Cette sélection pourrait donc être due à une adaptation à ce nouveau climat. De plus, une étude montre que certaines sociétés se sont préparées à cette sécheresse en sélectionnant des vaches plus résistantes aux conditions sèches (Finkelstein et al., 2017). Peut-être en a-t-il été de même pour les moutons. ...
La domestication représente un changement majeur de l’histoire de l’humanité, menant à l'émergence de l'agriculture durant le Néolithique. En offrant une série d'expériences évolutives indépendantes où les plantes et les animaux ont été sélectionnés pour des traits spécifiques, ce processus intéresse depuis longtemps les biologistes évolutionnistes. Le mouton (Ovis aries) est l’une des premières espèces à avoir été domestiquée, ce qui en fait aussi un modèle de choix pour étudier les premières tentatives de l’homme dans le développement de l’élevage. L’étude de ce processus implique plusieurs disciplines complémentaires comme l’archéologie, la paléo-génétique ou la génétique moderne. Les deux premières procurent des témoins directs des processus passés, mais reposent sur des données fragmentées dans le temps et l’espace. L’ADN moderne est au contraire une source de données abondantes dont l’échantillonnage peut être bien plus exhaustif au niveau géographique, mais n’est pas exempt d’incertitudes liées à la nécessité d’inférer les processus passés ayant conduit à la diversité génétique actuelle. Ces inférences sont possibles car les génomes actuels gardent les traces des processus qui les ont façonnés au fil des millénaires. Les variations génétiques le long des génomes et à travers les régions géographiques ont été largement étudiées chez le mouton, permettant d’inférer les processus démographiques (migrations, variations de tailles de populations au cours du temps) et adaptatifs (régions génomiques répondant à la sélection naturelle). Cependant, les informations temporelles contenues dans la variabilité des génomes sont encore largement sous-exploitées. Grâce à 376 génomes complets représentatifs de la diversité actuelle mondiale des moutons et de leurs proches parents sauvages, les mouflons asiatiques, nous avons précisé l’histoire de leur domestication. Les âges d’apparition de plus de 30 millions de variants génomiques ont été estimés et constituent un Atlas disponible pour la communauté scientifique via un site web. La distribution de ces âges montre que l’histoire des moutons est intimement liée à la nôtre, et que leur ADN porte la trace de grandes crises de l’Humanité telles que l’effondrement de l’âge du Bronze ou la peste de Justinien. Les variants génomiques datant de ces périodes indiquent des chutent du partage d’haplotypes entre toutes les populations domestiques. La datation des traces de sélection présentes dans les génomes souligne l’importance des remplacements de populations liés à différentes vagues de diffusion, et de l’intensification récente des sélections de caractères agronomiques. Ces processus ont effacé une partie des empreintes des sélections anciennes. Cependant, certaines races épargnées par ces phénomènes témoignent de l’utilisation précoce probable du lait dès le début de la domestication et de la sélection de caractéristiques potentiellement impliqués dans le syndrome de domestication (couleur, baisse de l’agressivité, immunité). Ce syndrome désigne un ensemble de traits morphologiques, physiologiques et comportementaux partagés par de multiples espèces domestiques sélectionnés probablement involontairement via la sélection des animaux les plus dociles. Cette datation de variants génomiques à large échelle est la première du genre mis en œuvre sur une espèce autre que l’humain. Son utilisation ouvre de nouvelles perspectives pour préciser la chronologie des évènements constituant les scénarios évolutifs (par exemple synchronisme entre migrations et évènements adaptatifs) sur d’autres espèces, dans un contexte de domestication ou plus largement.
... They acknowledged, however, that the proposed climatic date ranges can rarely be resolved to the point that they can be related to specific events. In a more recent, broader-based study of hydro-climatic variability throughout the Mediterranean over the past 10,000 years, Finné et al. (2019) observed that the climate 'oscillated' between about 4000 and 1000 bc (6000-3000 ± 300 BP), and noted that in the centuries around c. 1000 ± 300 bc the eastern Mediterranean became subject to what was, overall, the driest period during the Bronze Age (see also Langgut et al., 2013;Finkelstein et al., 2017). Thus, several proxy databases point to the possibility of more arid conditions in the eastern Mediterranean region at various times between the thirteenth and tenth centuries bc, even if precise dating and thus close synchronisation between archaeological data and specific historical events remain problematic. ...
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Our understanding of the earliest Iron Age on Cyprus has long remained somewhat obscure. This is the result of both a relative lack of material evidence and the fact that scholarly attention has focused more on the preceding Late Bronze Age and on the subsequent Cypro-Archaic period. As more, and more varied, data have accumulated, there have been calls for a more theoretically informed approach to considering the social changes involved, and even for prehistorians to extend their work into the Cypriot Iron Age. As a response to this, the present study considers a broad range of material and documentary evidence, attempts to reconstruct the political economy, and offers an interpretative framework based on social understandings of Complex Adaptive Systems theory. Using this approach, the authors conclude that, while the enduring realities of Cyprus—its geography, copper resources and long tradition of agropastoralism—continued to shape Cypriot culture, the Iron Age is not simply a continuation of its Bronze Age sociopolitical forms. We argue instead that the earliest Iron Age involved social actors negotiating new politico-economic agendas in response to changing conditions in the Iron Age eastern Mediterranean.
... In the LB and later periods, the Canaanite storage jar was widely copied, and is considered to be the precursor to the Graeco-Roman amphora Demesticha 2016, Panitz-Cohen 2014)-in fact, the Greek word amphiphoreous, meaning "carried on both sides", describing the handling of the vessel, is the origin of this word (Grace 1979 (Astour 1965, Berkowitz and Ra'ad 2001, Quinn 2011, Stager 1991, Stieglitz 1990 (Asscher et al. 2015, Finkelstein et al. 2017, Mazar 2011, Mazar et al. 2005, Panitz-Cohen 2014, Sharon 2014, Sherratt 2014, as well as the long duration of this transition making it almost a period unto itself (Killebrew 2014, Sharon 2014. However, following Ussishkin (1985), and for ease and clarity of reading, this paper uses the shorter term LB III to refer to this period-which also emphasises, importantly to this paper, its strong connection to earlier periods. ...
In the Late Bronze Age, the city of Azekah was a regional centre that probably prospered under the sponsorship of Egyptian rulers. However, the city was destroyed in the late 12th Century BCE by an unknown cause and abandoned thereafter. Building T2/627 was destroyed in this event: the building burned and collapsed, trapping four of Azekah’s inhabitants inside. The arrangement of artefacts shows that this was a sudden disaster, leaving little time to prepare to evacuate. Between 2012 and 2014, the remains of these four individuals were excavated by the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition. The lives and deaths of these individuals were reconstructed using the approach of osteobiography. Age at death and sex estimations were integrated with discussions of pathology, trauma, and musculoskeletal stress, to propose reconstructions of habitual activity and aspects of health and diet. Bone fractures and colour changes were classified and staged to give an estimate of fire conditions from the time of death, and postmortem scavenging patterns were discussed to attempt to explain the missing limbs and characterise the site after the destruction. The information from these analyses was taken into context with what is currently known about the history and archaeology of this region, to produce four portraits of life at ancient Azekah. It was found that these individuals suffered from anaemia and other systemic illness during their lives. Patterns of musculoskeletal stress markers showed that they were likely highly active. In the context of artifacts recovered from the building, the markers suggest that specific activities included grinding grain and carrying heavy objects. After the destruction, it seems that the bodies burned quite extensively. The overall impression of high-temperature fire conditions drawn from bone colour changes contrasted with the relative lack of heat-induced fracturing of the remains and the absence of clear pugilistic posture. Possibly, a very hot fire aided by flammable goods stored in the building caused the building to collapse on top of these individuals and protect their bodies from some of the effects of heat alteration. Together, these lines of evidence enhanced our understanding of these individuals’ ways of life and manners of death against the backdrop of Azekah’s destruction.
... To mitigate the effect of increasingly dry conditions in Canaan in the Late Bronze Age (ca. 3200-3050 cal yr BP), local governors formulated policies to facilitate technological innovations such as dry farming and ploughing (Finkelstein et al. 2017), in this instance a political response shaped agricultural methods. In the Indus valley during the post-urban period (3950-3150 cal yr BP), we see increased cultivation of drought-resistant crops (e.g. ...
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In order to assess late prehistoric human responses to climate change in the Western Loess Plateau (WLP), we investigated 13,567 charred plant seeds and 19 radiocarbon (14 C) dates obtained from 41 late prehistoric sites in the upper Wei River valley. Based on these new dating results as well as their cultural attributes, these sites could be confidently divided into four chronological phases (Phase 1: Late Yangshao and Majiayao culture; Phase 2: Qijia culture; Phases 3 and 4: Siwa culture) but a significant gap was identified at ca. 3600-3000 cal yr BP in this region. Comparison of this interval to high-resolution paleoclimate records from Tianchi Lake suggests it could be attributed to the dramatic drop in temperature at this time. Accordingly, archaeobotanical evidence with a refined chronology shows the adoption of cold-tolerant subsistence cereal grains such as barley on the NETP (Northeast Tibetan Plateau). Drawing from various lines of knowledge (chronology, palaeoclimate, archaeobotany, and archaeology), it is reasonable to conclude that, even when confronting a similar magnitude of climate change, local human societies could vary tremendously. Different subsistence strategies were brought in by the trans-Eurasia culture exchange of prehistoric times.
... Available paleoclimate data for the southern Levant for the earlier Iron Age are inconclusive, but, after indications of cooler and arid conditions in the period around the close of the Late Bronze Age through initial Iron Age ∼3300-3000 BP (51)(52)(53)(54)(55), there are some (not always consistent) suggestions of wetter and/or warming conditions and increased solar irradiance ∼3000-2800 BP in the East Mediterranean region (refs. 52, 54, and 56-58; note that we adjust the ref. ...
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Considerable work has gone into developing high-precision radiocarbon (¹⁴C) chronologies for the southern Levant region during the Late Bronze to Iron Age/early Biblical periods (∼1200–600 BC), but there has been little consideration whether the current standard Northern Hemisphere ¹⁴C calibration curve (IntCal13) is appropriate for this region. We measured ¹⁴C ages of calendar-dated tree rings from AD 1610 to 1940 from southern Jordan to investigate contemporary ¹⁴C levels and to compare these with IntCal13. Our data reveal an average offset of ∼19 ¹⁴C years, but, more interestingly, this offset seems to vary in importance through time. While relatively small, such an offset has substantial relevance to high-resolution ¹⁴C chronologies for the southern Levant, both archaeological and paleoenvironmental. For example, reconsidering two published studies, we find differences, on average, of 60% between the 95.4% probability ranges determined from IntCal13 versus those approximately allowing for the observed offset pattern. Such differences affect, and even potentially undermine, several current archaeological and historical positions and controversies.
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A single Northern Hemisphere calibration curve has formed the basis of radiocarbon dating in Europe and the Mediterranean for five decades, setting the time frame for prehistory. However, as measurement precision increases, there is mounting evidence for some small but substantive regional (partly growing season) offsets in same-year radiocarbon levels. Controlling for interlaboratory variation, we compare radiocarbon data from Europe and the Mediterranean in the second to earlier first millennia BCE. Consistent with recent findings in the second millennium CE, these data suggest that some small, but critical, periods of variation for Mediterranean radiocarbon levels exist, especially associated with major reversals or plateaus in the atmospheric radiocarbon record. At high precision, these variations potentially affect calendar dates for prehistory by up to a few decades, including, for example, Egyptian history and the much-debated Thera/Santorini volcanic eruption.
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This article presents the role of climate fluctuations in shaping southern Levantine human history from 3600 to 600 BCE (the Bronze and Iron Ages) as evidenced in palynological studies. This time interval is critical in the history of the region; it includes two phases of rise and decline of urban life, organization of the first territorial kingdoms, and domination of the area by great Ancient Near Eastern empires. The study is based on a comparison of several fossil pollen records that span a north-south transect of 220 km along the southern Levant: Birkat Ram in the northern Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, and Ein Feshkha and Ze’elim Gully both on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The vegetation history and its climatic implications are as follows: during the Early Bronze Age I (~3600–3000 BCE) climate conditions were wet; a minor reduction in humidity was documented during the Early Bronze Age II–III (~3000–2500 BCE). The Intermediate Bronze Age (~2500–1950 BCE) was characterized by moderate climate conditions, however, since ~2000 BCE and during the Middle Bronze Age I (~1950–1750 BCE) drier climate conditions were prevalent, while the Middle Bronze Age II–III (~1750–1550 BCE) was comparably wet. Humid conditions continued in the early phases of the Late Bronze Age, while towards the end of the period and down to ~1100 BCE the area features the driest climate conditions in the timespan reported here; this observation is based on the dramatic decrease in arboreal vegetation. During the period of ~1100–750 BCE, which covers most of the Iron Age I (~1150–950 BCE) and the Iron Age IIA (~950–780 BCE), an increase in Mediterranean trees was documented, representing wetter climate conditions, which followed the severe dry phase of the end of the Late Bronze Age. The decrease in arboreal percentages, which characterize the Iron Age IIB (~780–680 BCE) and Iron Age IIC (~680–586 BCE), could have been caused by anthropogenic activity and/or might have derived from slightly drier climate conditions. Variations in the distribution of cultivated olive trees along the different periods resulted from human preference and/or changes in the available moisture. © 2015 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.
The definition of a transition zone between the area in which rainfed agriculture is possible during most years and the desert and pasture area, in which the population depends on cattle breeding, is a geographic one rather than an anthropological one. The conduct of the population pertaining to the nature of its dwelling (temporary camps, permanent camps, seasonal settlements, and permanent settlements) is not spontaneous. The political system in which a community operates, and the given economic constraints and temptations, plays a crucial role affecting decisions it makes concerning types of settlement. During the Iron Age IB, there was a shift in preference: from settlement dictated by the potential of territories to serve as pastureland to settlement dictated by the existence of trade routes. During the Byzantine period, state systems possessed complete territorial control of both cultivated and wilderness territories, making the best of both socioeconomic systems.
A core drilled from the Sea of Galilee was subjected to high resolution pollen analysis for the Bronze and Iron Ages. The detailed pollen diagram (sample/∼40 yrs) was used to reconstruct past climate changes and human impact on the vegetation of the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating of short-lived terrestrial organic material. The results indicate that the driest event throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages occurred ∼1250-1100 BCE - at the end of the Late Bronze Age. This arid phase was identified based on a significant decrease in Mediterranean tree values, denoting a reduction in precipitation and the shrinkage of the Mediterranean forest/maquis. The Late Bronze dry event was followed by dramatic recovery in the Iron I, evident in the increased percentages of both Mediterranean trees and cultivated olive trees. Archaeology indicates that the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age took place during the same period - from the mid- 13th century to ca. 1100 BCE. In the Levant the crisis years are represented by destruction of a large number of urban centres, shrinkage of other major sites, hoarding activities and changes in settlement patterns. Textual evidence from several places in the Ancient Near East attests to drought and famine starting in the mid-13th and continuing until the second half of the 12th century. All this helps to better understand the 'Crisis Years' in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the quick settlement recovery in the Iron I, especially in the highlands of the Levant. © Friends of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 2013.
We present a zooarchaeological analysis of the faunal remains at Tel Beth-Shemesh, a site located in the Shephelah region of Israel, which has been dated to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I. The site, identified as the biblical city of Beth-Shemesh, was a Canaanite border town between Philistine and Israelite settlements and of great importance in our attempts to understand the social and cultural transformations that occurred in the southern Levant during those periods. This study contributes to a more accurate understanding of the cultural identity of the site's inhabitants by exploring the cultural differences between populations as reflected in their different dietary preferences. We analysed the subsistence economy at the site, the general exploitation patterns, herd management strategies and consumption practices, all of which are based mostly on domestic livestock. We determined the cultural identity at the site mainly by comparing the representation of pig remains with that found at other sites in the region, and offer various explanations for the differences. The comparisons revealed clear differences between Tel Beth-Shemesh and other known nearby Philistine sites. This site appears to have possessed a self-contained production and consumption economy with similarities in the general pattern of animal exploitation between the two periods. These similarities constitute evidence for the continuation of the local population and of its culture at the site during the period of turmoil that swept the region during the transition to the Iron Age. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Megiddo VI: The 2010-2014 Seasons, Monograph Series of the
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in press Jewelry Hoard from Level H-11, in: I. FINKELSTEIN, M.A.S. MARTIN and M.J. ADAMS (eds.), Megiddo VI: The 2010-2014 Seasons, Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv. BARTOSIEWICZ, L. and LISK, E. in press Mammalian Remains, in: A. GILBOA, I. SHARON and J.R. ZORN (eds.), Excavations at Dor, Final Report. Volume II. Area G: The Late Bronze and Iron Ages.
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BONFIGLIO, S., GINJA, C., DE GAETANO, A., ACHILLI, A., OLIVIERI, A., COLLI, L., TESFAYE, K., AGHA, S.H., GAMA, L.T., CATTONARO, F., PENEDO, M.C.T., AJMONE-MARSAN, P., TORRONI, A. and FERRETTI, L. 2012 Origin and Spread of Bos Taurus: New Clues from Mitochondrial Genomes Belonging to Haplogroup T1, PloS One 7(6), e38601. CASSON, L.
Excavation at Tel Beth-Shean 1989-1996, Volume I: The Late Bronze Age IIB to the Medieval Period
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Mammalian Remains from Areas H, L, P and Q, 689710, in: A. MAZAR (ed.), Excavation at Tel Beth-Shean 1989-1996, Volume I: The Late Bronze Age IIB to the Medieval Period, Jerusalem.