Continuity & Discontinuity in the LB IIB/Iron I Transition

Posted in: AIAR
Tags: Continuity, Discontinuity, Johns Hopkins University, Laura Wright, LB IIB/Iron I Transition
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A Study of Glyptic Technology and Iconography

By: Laura Wright, Johns Hopkins University
Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

During the early 20th century, the transition between the Late Bronze IIB and Iron I was characterized as one of discontinuity, based primarily upon the biblical model of Israelite emergence and Philistine arrival. On the Philistine coastal plain, changes in ceramics, textile technology, and cooking traditions accompanied the Philistine arrival on the southern Levantine coast. Imports decreased markedly both inland and along the coast, indicating a breakdown in trade between the southern Levant and neighboring regions. Early archaeological research firmly established that discontinuity across this transition within multiple corpora of material culture.

However, there was also continuity, which early archaeologists indirectly described. Albright’s ceramic typology, for example, noted ceramic forms that developed continuously across this transition.[1] Recent studies of ceramic technology have told an increasingly complex story of continuity co-existing with discontinuity during this transition.[2] Even when forms show continuous development from the Late Bronze Age, new technological traditions underlie apparent continuity.[3]

With this complex story in mind, I focused on the glyptic corpus of the LB IIB and Iron I. Although seals tend to be used for lengthy periods as heirloom objects, certain seals from Iron I contexts can be securely dated. New typological forms, like the conoid and pyramidal stamp seal, appear during the transition from the LB IIB to the Iron I. When these stamp seals are found in Iron I contexts, the form provides the terminus post quem and the context the terminus ante quem. These securely dated seals show the rise of a new iconographic tradition. As a result, the narrative of discontinuity has been dominant when discussing the locally produced glyptics of the southern Levant.

Othmar Keel, however, rightfully noted the need to examine the Late Bronze Age and Iron I glyptic corpus for continuity as well as discontinuity.[4] This study fills this lacuna. Using a digital microscope, I examined the technology and iconography of around 900 glyptic items from collections at the Rockefeller Museum, the Israel Antiquity Authority’s Beth Shemesh storage facility, the École Biblique, and several current excavations. Through first-hand microscopic observation, I was able to establish certain probable and possible criteria for identifying local production of glyptics in the LB II and Iron I. I am now in the process of compiling and establishing regional trends within those locally produced glyptics from the LB II and Iron I.

Regional trends in the LB IIB are emerging which show a higher level of elite emulation of Egyptian material culture in areas with a high concentration of genuine, imported Egyptian material culture. In the Iron I, Egyptianizing glyptics continue to be produced locally in the southern Levantine coastal plain among the regions where Philistine material culture is found. These Egyptianizing seals from the Iron I are hybrid artifacts that may mix local forms with Egyptianizing technology and iconography. These regional trends will be further explored over the next year as I complete my dissertation.

I am grateful for the ideal environment of the Albright. It permitted me to work on my dissertation as well as the publication of the Iron I stamp seals of Ashkelon and another Neo-Assyrian seal found during a survey of Sebastiye. Sy’s ever-steady hand leading the Albright creates a collegial environment where junior scholars are welcomed as colleagues into the archaeological community of Jerusalem.

 

[1] William F. Albright, TBM I, §55. [2] Ann Killebrew, “Ceramic Craft and Technology during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages: The Relationship between Pottery, Technology Style and Cultural Diversity” (Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1998). [3] Daniel Master, “Home Cooking at Ashkelon in the Bronze and Iron Ages,” in On Cooking Pots, Drinking Cups, Loomweights and Ethnicity in Bronze Age Cyprus and Neighbouring Regions: An International Archaeological Symposium Held in Nicosia 6th – 7th (ed. Vassos Karageorghis and Ourania Kouka; Nicosia: The A. G. Leventis Foundation, 2011), 257-264. [4] Othmar Keel, “Früheisenzeitliche Glyptik in Palästina/Israel,” in Studien zu den Stempelsiegeln aus Palästina/Israel. Band III: Die Frühe Eisenzeit ein Workshop (ed. Othmar Keel, Menakhem Shuval and Christoph Uehlinger; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1990), 331-421: 337.

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