Iron Age overlap with Bronze Age

4 May 2010

Bene Israel: Studies in the Archaeology of Israel and the Levant during the Bronze and Iron ages, Leiden: 2008. This book is dedicated to Israel Finkelstein, archaeologist and teacher, and is a collection of 12 contributions from his former students. It concerns Bronze and Iron age chronology, stylistic pottery peculiarities, land use, resettlement distribution, the formation of states, and economies etc. From a brief look it is clear that some of his students do not agree with Finkelstein's chronology. For example, Meitlis, in a re-analysis of the archaeological evidence for the beginning of the Iron Age argues there was an overlap between Iron I (in the Canaanite hills) and the Bronze Age (14th century lowland Canaanite sites). This is an interesting development as it would place people in the hill country at a point in time before they seem to appear in the present chronology. It also opens the possibility of the early Israelite monarchs, such as Saul and David, contemporary with dynasty 19 (for example) even using a conventional framework. It further impinges on the various revisions. The arguments of Meitlis are based on i) the occurrence of LB material such as Cypriot and Myceanaean artifacts at Iron Age sites, and ii) the presence of LB age artifacts at sites destroyed early in the LB and only reoccupied in the Iron Age (a gap in occupancy that he claims can be closed). He provides Tell Taanach as an example - destroyed in the 15th century (conventional date) and long uninhabited until the advent of the Iron Age (together with LHIIIA2 vessels). In  addition, C14 dates for carbonised wood at Tell Dan, located in Iron Age strata, have been dated to the 14th and 13th centuries BC. He appears to be in favour of raising the advent of Iron Age I rather than reducing Late Bronze Age IIA and B. Presumably this would allow the age of Solomon and David to fit into a more developed phase of the Iron Age as Iron I was fairly poor and impoverished. It ignores the nature of the demise of the Late Bronze Age - by violence in the natural world (including evidence of widespread earthquake activity). An impoverished phase of Iron I would be expected to follow a severe natural disaster so there is reason to think politics lies at the root of Meitlis work - an attempt to reinstate David and Solomon in a more substantial historical period.