The Emergence of Social Complexity: Changes in Animal Management Strategies between the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Near East

Hill_AustinBy: Austin C. Hill, University of Connecticut, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition in the southern Levant has long been considered a threshold event in the development of social complexity in the Near East.  Societies are argued to have shifted from small scale, village-based chiefdoms to true “urban” or city-state level societies. Nevertheless, much recent criticism has focused on the accuracy of this long held characterization and the degree of social change that occurred between these periods. Studies of animal economies, however, can offer direct insight into political and social systems, but have rarely been used to look at social change in this key period. The types of species raised, how and when animals are slaughtered, and the parts of animals that are consumed are all directly affected by the degree of hierarchically organized production and distribution. Rigorous faunal studies, therefore, are a vital line of evidence in studying the emergence of social complexity. My research at the Albright focused on extending our understanding of faunal economies in these critical periods by analyzing new material, and synthesizing published material. Continue reading

The transformation of the Metropolis of Myra into an Ottoman village

By: Ebru Fatma Fındık
Research Assistant Hacettepe University, Faculty of Letters, Department of Art History, Beytepe, Ankara / TURKEY

Fig. 1: The house of a Turkish villager

The ancient city of Myra (mod. Demre) is situated in a plain of Lycia, surrounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north and by the Myros River (mod. Demra Çayı) to the east. Located to the south-west, on the banks of the Andrakos River, is its ancient harbour Andriake (mod. Çayağzı). The city has a large rural territory and during the Byzantine period the city had close religious, social, and economic ties with its territory (Foss 1996: 315).

Since 1989, the excavation and restoration work of the most important ecclesiastical building of the ancient city, the Church of St. Nicholas, has been carried out by the Art History Department of Hacettepe University. On the other hand, the excavations in the ancient city have been carried out by the Archaeology Department of Akdeniz University since 2009. Continue reading

From History and Myth, Anatolians in Mycenaean Greece

By: Josh Cannon, University of Chicago

The Late Bronze Age (LBA) of Anatolia is a period that has been described to us through history and myth. The history of LBA Anatolia comes primarily from the Hittites, who actively created and maintained records. Written in cuneiform, these records provide us with a wealth of information ranging from sweeping royal military campaigns to the correspondence of local leaders discussing missing slaves. The myth comes predominantly from the Archaic and Classical Greeks who wrote about how their Bronze Age ancestors interacted with their Anatolian neighbors. The most famous story of this nature is Homer’s Iliad. If we carefully weave the historical knowledge together with the myth, we can use the two together to accomplish more than either can do alone. However, this is a delicate task. Both sources need to be treated with their shortcomings in mind. For instance, one issue with the historical record is that it is incomplete. This is due to several reasons, though time will allow us to improve some of them. With time, scholars will continue to translate the many Hittite tablets that have been uncovered. Also, additional Hittite tablets will come to light through archaeological excavations. What time cannot touch are the historical details that were never recorded by the Hittites, details that were left out because they were deemed insignificant or perhaps politically damaging. Continue reading

Tall al-`Umayri 2012: Summer of Surprises

By: Douglas R. Clark, Director, and Kent V. Bramlett, Chief Archaeologist, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA
[photographer: Jillian Logee, Calgary, AB]

Figure 1: Douglas Clark

Figure 2: Kent Bramlett

Figure 3:  Jillian  Logee

What began as a normal, and 15th, season of excavations at Tall al-`Umayri, Jordan—part of the Madaba Plains Project—turned out to be anything but normal. Land ownership issues forced the team at the last minute to change course drastically and plan as if this were the last summer excavation season ever at a site deserving another 15 or 50. While negotiations continued, the 2012 team braced for the worst and reconfigured their entire set of objectives for 2012, a move which pressed them to sharpen their focus, record everything digitally as if there were no tomorrow, and push themselves to the limit of what is possible in five weeks. In the end, the 2012 team accomplished every single newly minted objective, including especially the following:

1) Accomplish several things archaeologically (in chronological order):
a. Complete recording of Early Bronze Age dolmen
b. Clarify buildings of the Early Iron I settlement along the western perimeter wall by exposing the fourth contiguous structure (Building D) in a row
c. Sort out pre- and post-earthquake phases of the buildings in this Early Iron I settlement
d. Expose a slightly later “four-room” building plan plus surrounding attached rooms and connect this stratigraphically with the Early Iron I settlement
e. Further clarify Iron II and Iron II/Persian remains

2) Document absolutely everything possible with all the technology available should the team not be able to return Continue reading

Wrapping up at Tall al-Umayri

By: Amanda Hopkins, 2012 Heritage Fellow
Read Amanda’s earlier posts here (1), here (2), and here (3).

A Hopkins 6

Amanda and other excavators in the cave entrance

Week Four and the end of this year’s dig:

As we continue our digging something very exciting happens- a white, hollow and crumbly residue is found clinging to the chisel marks. This is definitely plaster! The chiseling and plaster can be found on the ceiling and sides of the cave. Further chiseling is also found when looking at the natural dissolution features that trail off from the SE and Southern quadrants of the cave. One can clearly see how the natural fissures in the rock have been humanly manipulated into channels that bend upward and toward the surface of the earth. All this plaster and chiseling suggest that the cave had been manipulated into a cistern. Continue reading

Texts without Qumran and Qumran without Texts: Searching for the Latrines

By: James D. Tabor, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 On the other days they dig a small pit, a foot deep, with a paddle of the sort given them when they are first admitted among them; and covering themselves round with their garment, that they may not affront the rays of God, they ease themselves into that pit.                                                                                  Josephus War 2.148

  This paper explores the complex and shifting dynamics of comparing texts with texts, texts with “sites,” and sites with themselves, but without texts. I use the term “sites” loosely to refer to the material or archaeological evidence that may or may not be related to a given text from antiquity. I see this as an extension of Jonathan Z. Smith’s interest and fascination with  “comparisons” so evident in much of his work over the past three decades.  But more particularly I have in mind the Louis H. Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion, delivered at the University of London in 1988, subsequently published as Divine Drudgery[1]. Fascinated by the “thick dossier of the history of the enterprise,” i.e., the comparison of “Christianities” and the religions of Late Antiquity, Smith undertakes what he calls “archaeological work in the learned literature” in order to highlight both theoretical and methodological issues. His operative question is what is “at stake” in the various comparative proposals? I am convinced that some of the same dynamics Smith finds operating in the development of the study of “Christian Origins,” namely Roman Catholic and Protestant apologetics and presuppositions, have been present from the beginning in considering the textual corpus known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” and in interpreting the physical site of the adjacent ruins of Qumran, as well as in the combining of the two—that is, texts and site. I want to expand a bit the comparisons of “words,” “stories,” and “settings” beyond their purely “textual” levels, and explore the methods of bringing in non-textual evidence, that is, evidence of “place.” In that sense I find Smith’s metaphor of the “archaeological” more than intriguing, and in this paper, with spade in hand (or perhaps I might say with “paddle” in hand!), I want to explore how the proverbial “mute stones” speak, or remain silent, in the presence of texts, and the ways in which the texts inform “place,” and “place” might enlighten the texts. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup 11-9-12

masada israelIsraeli paleographer Ada Yardeni has recently identified 50 Dead Sea scrolls found near Qumran in Israel as having been penned by the same scribe, a scribe who also penned scrolls that have been found at the Herodian mountain-top fortress of Masada, where Jewish rebel zealots made their last suicidal stand against the Romans in 73 A.D.

New techniques reveal that the settlement of Polynesia first occurred within a 16 year window nearly 3000 years ago. The research, published November 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by David Burley and colleagues from Simon Fraser University, Canada, dates coral tools and reveals that the first human settlers lived in a founder colony on the islands of Tonga between 2830 to 2846 years ago. Continue reading

Cyprus: Interconnections in the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1700-1100 BC)

By: A. Bernard Knapp
Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, 11 Andreas Demetriou, 1066 Nicosia, Cyprus. Email.

Throughout its long prehistory and protohistory, the island of Cyprus was strategically situated between the cultures of ancient western Asia and the Aegean, if not those of the central Mediterranean. As a consequence, in literature both academic and popular, the island is frequently referred to as a ‘crossroads of civilizations’. This is especially the case for the Late Bronze Age (henceforth LBA, between ca. 1700-1100 BC), but it also holds true for the Iron Age, the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the Medieval and even the modern eras, albeit in very different ways.

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Protecting, Preserving, and Presenting Cultural Heritage in Petra: The Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative

treasury, petra, tweissi

Figure 1: Petra’s most famous icon, the Al-Khazne (‘the Treasury’) tomb façade with tourist camel riders (Q. Tweissi).

By: Christopher A. Tuttle

Two hundred years ago, on 22 August 1812, the ancient city of Petra was re-identified by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the first European on record to have visited the site since the 13thcentury. Word of his discovery quickly spread and other visitors soon followed in his footsteps—inaugurating a bicentennial of exploration and research at this amazing site located in what is today southern Jordan.

Petra served as the capitol city for the kingdom of Nabataea from at least the second century BCE until Trajan’s annexation of the region into the Roman Empire in 106 CE. Under Roman rule, the city retained its importance and became the administrative center for the new province of Arabia Petraea. Although heavily damaged by a major earthquake in May 363 CE, the city continued to play a significant role in the region during the Byzantine period when it served as an episcopal see of the Christian church. Continue reading

Qumran Month Comes to a Close

It has been a successful month here on the ASOR blog, with posts by many leading scholars on all aspects of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls! We have had seven posts covering everything from the archaeological evidence for a sect inhabiting the site of Qumran, to translations and interpretations of portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to evidence for changes in scripture over time. In case you missed any of them, the posts in order are: Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Reports Discoveries at Marj Rabba

By: Brittany Jackson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Season Four at Marj Rabba, Israel, has been one of our most successful, thanks to funding from ASOR. The Marj Rabba excavations, led by Dr. Yorke Rowan (University of Chicago) and Dr. Morag Kersel (DePaul University), are very important for exploring the virtually unexplored lifeways and material culture of the Galilee during the Chalcolithic (c. 4500-3500 BC). As a recipient of the Heritage Fellowship, my participation has been vital to training new excavators (of whom we had almost 20 this year!). As part of my work, I have led excavations in one of our areas, where we have had many very exciting and promising finds this season.

During the 2011 season at Marj Rabba, the area I supervise was started by opening two five meter by five meter excavation units. We were hoping to better understand and explain the relationship between two previously excavated areas of the site, which appeared to have at least two different building phases. The season proved very rewarding, as excavators uncovered at least five stone wall remnants, three of which were seemingly large, well preserved, and apparently contemporaneous, and appeared to form the majority of a possible storage room.

This season, we decided to expand excavations by adding an additional five meter by five meter excavation square to the area, and, lo, we found the final, closing wall to the well preserved room, as well as a series of other very exciting finds. Excavators and students have uncovered multiple beads of various materials, as well as bone tools and jewelry, and obsidian, which was imported from Turkey.

We still have about two weeks until the end of our 2012 excavation season, and staff, interns, and students are all working hard to make sure this is the best season yet! The storage room in my area is still being excavated, and it appears that our stone-built walls are better preserved and larger than any of us could have hoped. Thanks again to ASOR, for supporting my participation in Marj Rabba’s search for the prehistory of the Galilee!

 

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Sectarianism and the Archaeology of Qumran

Regev at the entrance to Cave 11 with his students from the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology department, Bar-Ilan University

By: Eyal Regev

In a couple of articles published in BASOR and Revue de Qumran[1], I have analyzed the social aspects of the inhabitants of kh. Qumran using social-scientific theories, without direct consideration of the scrolls.

I have examined the spatial organization and architecture of kh. Qumran using Hillier and Hanson’s Space Syntax Theory, commonly called Access Analysis. The results show strong social boundaries and the division of the site into distinct clusters, in a specific hierarchal structure which entails ritualization. kh. Qumran is divided into different segments in a hierarchal distribution of spaces which marks separation between different spheres. I have compared the Access Analysis map of kh. Qumran to those of seven other contemporaneous manor houses or villas, in which all the spatial boundaries are substantially weaker. Continue reading

A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

By: Erin Darby and Robert Darby

Figure 1: Map of southern Jordan with ‘Ayn Gharandal

Located in southern Jordan, the archaeological site of ‘Ayn Gharandal lies covered by the desolate sands of the Wadi Araba (Fig. 1). Even though the site is located near an ancient spring, Lawrence (of Arabia) described the Araba Valley as follows: “Every few hours’ journey a greener patch marks a stagnant hole of water, which is always nasty to drink, in part from its own sedgy taste, and in part from the mixed flavors added to it by… camels (Woolley and Lawrence 1915: 13).” Noting that the Wadi Araba contained minimal archaeological remains, Lawrence ended his survey of the valley at ‘Ayn Gharandal and headed toward Petra.

Figure 2: Picture of ‘Ayn Gharandal fort prior to excavation

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Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

 By: Jodi Magness

Qumran - the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls - is located eight and a half miles south of Jericho, by the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.  The site was excavated from 1951-1956 by Roland de Vaux of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem.  More recently, other expeditions have explored different parts of the site, including the settlement and cemetery (Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg), residential caves to the north (Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel), and the cemetery (Broshi, Eshel, and Richard Freund).  From ca. 100 B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Qumran was occupied by members of a Jewish sect.  There are also remains of a late Iron Age (pre-586 B.C.E.) settlement and evidence of a brief phase of Roman occupation after 68 C.E. Continue reading

DAVID I. OWEN ON OBJECTS & INTRINSIC VALUE

David I. Owen is the Bernard and Jane Schapiro Professor of Ancient Near Eastern and Judaic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Dr. Owen contributed several filmed commentaries to both the CSIG (Coroplastic Studies Interest Group)-sponsored Round Table (2010)  and the SECONDARY CONTEXT I Workshop (2011) at the annual meetings. What follows is an excerpt of his conversation with Rick Hauser on the intrinsic value of unprovenienced artifacts.

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A Class Trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rachel Hallote
Purchase College SUNY

Next week I will be taking the students in my “Politics and Archaeology” course to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’ll be going as part of our unit on unprovenanced artifacts, collecting, looting and forgeries.

The assignment I give the class is simple: With a partner, choose a section of a gallery of antiquities—Egyptian, Greek, Roman or Mesopotamian. Walk around and write down the pertinent information for every artifact you see there, whether it’s a tiny bead, or a huge piece of architecture, using the museum display cards as your source. For every artifact, make sure you record: 1- the date when the museum acquired it, 2- whether it was uncovered by an archaeological excavation (and which one), 3- whether it is part of a named collection, 4- whether the museum owns it, or whether it is on loan, 5- the period or century to which the artifact dates, and 6- the artifact’s provenance. Then, quantify your results.

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The Public Impact

At the Secondary Context I workshop,  Dr. Giorgio Buccellati spoke movingly of his commitment to the people who live in Mozan ( the village for which the tell that covers ancient Urkesh is named). He and his colleagues have collaborated with those who live in Mozan and work the land nearby to create an innovative program that involves both populace and excavators. Small wonder that the site survives intact, a monument to culture, to a people, and to a tradition that endures.
-Rick HAUSER, Research Associate
IIMAS The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

The Public Impact
Giorgio Buccellati
Co-Director
Mozan/Urkesh Archaeological Project (Tell Mozan, Syria)
March—June 2011

Times of turmoil encourage an intense reflection on the ultimate validity of our field work in foreign lands. Identified as we become with the people, committed as we are to recover their territorial past, engaged as we still remain in the more esoteric dimensions of our research — the question of relevance emerges with urgency. Continue reading

April Theme: Fakes, Looting, and Artifacts Lacking Context

The ASOR Blog (asorblog.org) is pleased to announce a new “theme” for the month of April—Unprovenanced Artifacts and Possible Forgeries. The ASOR Blog will continue to post other items of interest that are submitted by the ASOR Staff and ASOR Members, but (just like we did in March) we will solicit posts on the “theme” for the month and also encourage unsolicited submissions on the theme from our membership. The guest editors for the month will be ASOR executive director Andy Vaughn (asored@bu.edu) and Professors Lynn Swartz Dodd (swartz@usc.edu) and Christopher Rollston (crollston@ecs.edu). Submissions should be sent to Andy Vaughn with a CC to Kevin Cooney (asorpubs@bu.edu). Continue reading

ASOR Funding for Regional Lectures

Exciting New Funding Opportunity from ASOR

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has recently decided to allocate funds in support of members who are organizing lectures and events throughout the year. The decision is prompted by an interest in increasing ASOR presence in events throughout the year and in promoting ASOR’s mission of public outreach.

Preference will be given to proposals for special programming at the regional meetings (including co-sponsoring a regional lecture event) that enhance ASOR membership and visibility, as well as to proposals for lectures/events beyond the regional meetings that promise to attract an audience of potential new ASOR members. Continue reading

The Talpiot Tombs and New Testament Historical Criticism

James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair of New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University, Indianapolis

The discovery of ossuaries in tombs in the Talpiot neighborhood of modern Jerusalem would almost certainly never have made international news or led to book deals, were it not for the claims of a relationship between those ossuaries and texts from the New Testament. While most of the criticisms of the recent claims made by James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici have focused on epigraphy and inscriptions, interpretation of iconography, and other matters related to the physical evidence, there are also problems with the claims in so far as they pertain to the New Testament texts. If there is any correlation at all to be made, it must treat all the evidence, including the texts, using the appropriate tools and methods of historical inquiry. Yet on this point, and from this perspective, the narrative being woven by Jacobovici and Tabor is problematic.

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