Part Two: Middle Bronze
Now we need to backtrack and consider the cultures known as Middle Bronze (MB). When some EB site was abandoned, the standard presumption is that the cause was the advent of the Middle Bronze "Age". It is not evidence which demands this consecutive arrangement, but rather it is the conventional theory.
In contrast to this, I have asserted that the EB and MB societies and city-states are not consecutive, but contemporary. In maintaining this, I have exposed myself to rather harsh criticism: for example, one anonymous reviewer of this article wrote that “the author displays a lack of knowledge of primary archaeological data from Syria-Palestine” (private communication). I suggest that this is the same response that creationists meet from evolutionists. Just as evolutionists see only genetic relationships where creationists see intelligent design, in explaining similarities between distinct biological taxa, so the standard archeological paradigm admits only consecutive cultures, where this new biblical paradigm interprets the EB and MB societies as contemporaneous. Rather than dismiss this article out of hand, a critic must demonstrate any real contradiction between my theory and the archeological record. It is not enough to say that the standard paradigm exists, therefore there is no other explanation: it is necessary to prove some real inadequacy.
But if the standard theory is incorrect, how then can the evidence be explained? An examination of Table V will reveal how the facts fit our new biblical paradigm. I have extended this reconstruction far beyond the narrow focus of this article, and found it to be valid. And as is needful for any true theory, this also is subject to falsification. For example, if we were to find MB IIB artifacts over an EB city which, say, the Bible stated was destroyed by Joshua and not rebuilt, this paradigm would be falsified. When the Bible does make such statements, they of course everywhere support this theory — or, if you will, this theory everywhere supports the statements.
According to the conventional scheme the "period" following EB III is characterized, as we might predict, by “terminological chaos” (Mazar, p. 152). This article will use the "Middle Bronze I" label, which is said to mark the same period as "EB IV", which we have just considered. Albright's "EB IV" was originally “vaguely determined . . . . [by] only a few tomb groups in western
MB I — 1970-1300's / c. *2200-1950 or *2000-1800 (standard match with
The terminating crisis of the Early Bronze Age culture lasted only “a short time, to be replaced by a totally different, nonurban pattern . . . . The exact date, nature, and cause of this crisis are among the major questions concerning the period. . . .
The phrase "abandonment of the EB urban sites" has the effect of a code, meaning that MB I artifacts do not generally follow the last EB layers. Living in the open land between the various EB urban areas were pastoralists, who were effectively independent of the urban societies. There was a fundamental independence of each from the other, which in turn supports the reinterpretation by our new paradigm of the evidence: these were contemporary communities in different locations, rather than one culture which coincidentally avoided the ruins of the previous culture.
Careful analysis reveals that any nomadic settlement of a certain type or location is assigned to the MB I "period", regardless of its place in real chronology. These MB I seminomads retained a cultural continuity “from EB I down to EB IV/MB I.” (Mazar, p. 117.) In other words, MB I is not a chronological, but a cultural label.
The archeologist who first identified this culture noted that “there are few synchronisms to assist” in correlating MB I to the rest of history (Albright, p. 52). Albright found MB I strata at Tell Beit Mirsim, “in good stratigraphic sequence”; this "sequence" was MB I topped by MB IIA (see Table VI), so there is no apparent EB connection. We can recognize this as a pastoral MB I group pioneering a site later occupied by urbanized MB II Amorites.
Who were these MB I people? An enduring opinion is that they were "Western Semitic" seminomads from the Syrian steppes — either those same Amorites (MAR.TU in Sumerian, meaning "westerners") who troubled Mesopotamia, or else related opportunists who came to fill the supposed void at the end of the Early Bronze Age. Another view identifies the MB I race as Indo-Europeans, noting first the similarity between copper grave goods found at MB I Ras Shamra and in Europe, and also the mutual use of tumuli, which were an essential feature of Indo-European culture. More recently the fashionable view is evolutionary, emphasizing indigenous traits and dismissing the idea of grand invasions by semites or aryans.
I maintain that, just as the ethnic Canaanites spread their EB culture, so this Middle Bronze I culture was indeed that of the ethnic Amorites — though as descendants of the patriarch
Although the description of the MB I race as nomadic may not be entirely accurate, “there can be no doubt that the diffusion of its pottery was closely related to the extraordinary development of the donkey caravan trade during the Third Dynasty of Ur and the Twelfth Dynasty in
The MB I "period" is a "dark age" which was designed by modern scholars to save the standard paradigm. Its outline is defined solely by Egyptian chronology: the
“precise chronological framework for [EB IV/MB I] is based on the dates of the end of EB III and the beginning of the following MB IIA. . . .the end of the EB III urban culture can be dated to the beginning of the Sixth Dynasty in
In between these Egyptian labels, the artificial "period" of MB I is inserted, correlated to
The 1st I.P. is supposed to be an era of “decentralization of power and a break in the traditional connections between
In its mystery, MB I corresponds not only to the imaginary "dark age" of the 1st I.P., but also to the Mesopotamian "dark age" / label, Early Dynastic I & II (1940‑1860 bc / *2900‑2600). However, note that the standard scheme has MB I corresponding to the end of the Ur III period (14th cent. / *21st cent. bc), when, conveniently, there were also no explicit interactions with
Middle Bronze I supposedly lasted something over 200 years, but this duration is not based on actual assemblages of pottery, MB I with Dynasty XII or Ur III. In any case, if this link is correct, I have shown that Dynasty XII ended in the 1700's (JH, 1997a, ch. 10), and Ur III thrived in the 1300's (JH, 1997a, ch. 16) — which would mean MB I lasted a minimum of 400 years, with its "ends" in reversed order. Likewise, it is claimed that the MB I pottery of
The only significant correlations of MB I are with
In sum, MB I is a virtually free-floating culture, with no direct archeological anchor to
The obvious styles of MB I ceramics are the Northern and the Southern, and the
The metal objects of Middle Bronze I demonstrate such a high degree of skill that specialists must have been at work. We see such metal-smiths, as Mazar observes (p. 166), in the famous Middle Kingdom tomb painting of Beni Hasan, which depicts a family of smiths, the elder bearing the typically Western Semitic name of Ab-sha; this picture gives us a uniquely detailed picture of the amu, regarding style of dress, beards and hair; they are mounted on donkeys (known in Byblos but not in Egypt). Beni Hasan died c. 1829 / *1890, "the sixth year" of Senusert / Sesostris II, about the first year of the coregency of the great Sesostris III (JH, 1997a, ch. 8). This is the period of Middle Kingdom contact with
A characteristic MB I copper artifact is the "eye shaped" axehead, superior in design to the "E-shaped" EB axes, from which they supposedly derived. Similar eye-shaped axes were common at
“appearance of ceremonial gold axes of the "eye" type in Middle Kingdom contexts at
By standard reckoning this anachronism would be due to some unusual conservative trend at
Finally, the silver Ain Samiya Goblet is the only acknowledged MB I art object. Found in a shaft tomb, it depicts kilted Sumerians enacting a Mesopotamian creation myth involving serpentine Tiamat and heroic Marduk. Apparently, this unique object was imported from northern
Based on the range of cemeteries, it has been presumed that MB I settlements were once scattered across the country. Whatever the actual range — and the evidence is quite meager — there is very little mixing or innovation in certain MB I regions. For example, south “of Esdraelon, 'MB I' is astonishingly homogeneous” (Albright, p. 53). Thus, MB I ceramic and metal artifacts of the
Of major EB cities, only Hazor,
Only a few other remote sites have been found and excavated, and information “concerning this period is limited; most of it has come from cemeteries” (Mazar, p. 151; see S. Richard, 1980 & 1987). There are three types of burials: 1) shaft tombs of western
The shaft tombs of the west were numerous, most likely because of the obvious factor of economy (it is easier to dig a hole than to move huge boulders one atop another). A high degree of variation exists among such shaft tombs, even in the same graveyard. Grave goods include only pottery, and occasionally a copper dagger or spear, or beads for females.
The Golan dolmens were built for the secondary burial of a single individual. These tombs were formed by several basaltic uprights capped by massive slabs of stone, all heaped over by rocks which form the tumuli. In such a tomb was found what is recognized as the first bronze alloy weapon, influenced perhaps by
As for the
“A most peculiar feature of EB IV/MB I is the habitation of arid regions, particularly the central
“almost uninhabited at times when an urban culture flourished in the rest of the country (such as in EB III, in the Middle and Late Bronze periods); but the region was heavily settled in EB IV/MB I — when in the fertile areas of Palestine there probably was no lack of land and pasture, and population was relatively sparse. This paradox is sharpened by Paleoclimatic studies showing that after the end of EB III drier conditions prevailed.” (Mazar, p. 158.)
Why would the
The fact that two cultures could co-exist without noticeable archeological contacts is demonstrated and confirmed by the fact that EB IV is said to have been contemporaneous with MB I, while there is no notable sharing of artifacts between these two contemporary but discrete cultures. The new biblical paradigm merely distributes this acknowledged co-existence throughout the entire EB II-III period.
Although having “superficial similarities”, the MB I settlements of the central Negev and northern Sinai are fundamentally different than the EB II sites of the entire Negev and southern Sinai, in that the EB sites are far fewer in number, and describe a line of communication between Palestine and southern Sinai (Mazar, p. 156). This difference is reasonable, given that the EB II sites are clearly linked to the copper trade, while the MB I were evidently self-sustaining. Further, site- and house-plans are recognizably different, with EB II rooms being broader and surrounding a courtyard; MB I huts were smaller and generally did not encompass a courtyard, and their “planning resembles much earlier, Neolithic sites.” (Mazar, p. 157.)
The "superficial similarities" between EB II and MB I sites are not coincidental, but represent the adaptation by the later EB II settlers of the customs of the earlier (and more enduring) MB I people. The supposedly later MB I sites are like Neolithic sites because they were the heirs of that people, with no "Early Bronze Age" separating the
What then shall we conclude about the MB I culture? The tremendous upheaval of the Exodus event displaced many races, so that Indo-Europeans most certainly could have passed through
The total evacuation of great cities, and the sprouting up of rude villages over the ruins of other cities, speak of both natural disaster and of war. The complete quarantine of the MB I pastoralists from the EB II/III urban domains can be rationally understood, I think, only as spheres of influence. The MB I resurrection of Neolithic and EB I traditions can easily be understood, if we do not assume a separate, intervening urban EB era.
MB IIA — c. 1900-1700-1500's / *1950-1800 or *1800-1750
Middle Bronze II arose, I maintain, around the same time as EB II and MB I. It began with the appearance of city life in specific regions of
The MB IIA civilization of
It is supposed that MB IIA originated on the coasts of
Other suggestions for the origin of MB IIA are that the
From our paradigm, it appears that the MB IIA culture most likely came out of the east after the
Whatever the point of origin, it seems clear that the urban Middle Bronze culture “was ushered in by the appearance of a new group of people. This is clearly indicated by the appearance of new pottery, new weapons, new burial customs and a revival of town life.” (Kenyon, 1960, p. 162.) Our first clue as to the identity of this new race comes from Egyptian texts, where we find that MB IIA names were "Western Semitic" — called "Amorite".
The Amorites have an impressive history in the ancient world, but according to our new paradigm, the chronology of their history is rather twisted. Thus, in
It is said that the migrating MB IIA Amorites were developing an increasingly centralized system of government (Libolt, p. 589). This characterization of their society is, however, the product of the confused chronology, which wrongly places Ur III prior to MB IIA, rather than after it. So, while it is true that the 13th / *20th century Amorites (who succeeded the empire of Ur III in Mesopotamia) developed a form of government where the Palace took precedence over the Temple, the earlier cities of the MB IIA society need not have followed this form of government. The evidence, such as it is, needs to be reevaluated in light of this new interpretation.
The culture of MB II Palestine “was to have a very long life. In spite of the fact that a series of events took place of major political importance, there is no cultural break until at least *1200 bc.” (Kenyon, 1960, p. 162.) This includes, then, the culture of the Late Bronze Age. It takes some effort to decipher just what actual date is meant by this "*1200": this is the *date imagined to follow shortly after the liberal idea of the "Exodus", but it is also the *date when the Iron Age started. Our new biblical paradigm of history places the true Exodus and the Iron Age almost 850 years apart — with neither having anything to do with the actual year 1200 bc. The upshot is that the standard model has MB/LB lasting some 800 years, while I have it lasting about 1,200 years.
Again, by the standard paradigm, the Middle Bronze II era lasted from *2000 to about *1550 bc — less than 500 years. But from our new paradigm we can see that it is only MB IIA which spanned from the 20th century bc to the 1500's of the Exodus and the Conquest, while MB IIB lasted from the Conquest to the Kingdom of Israel under Saul and David, in the late 11th century bc (cf. JH, 1997a, ch. 17) — altogether some nine centuries (excluding LB, of course).
MB IIA was first identified by Albright at Tell Beit Mirsim (of the inner Shephelah), Strata G and F, which correspond to Egypt's Middle Kingdom and pre-Hyksos era (this site's MB IIB Strata E & D are of the Hyksos era). Tell Beit Mirsim is the only inland site known to have multiple IIA levels, and only its second phase, Stratum F, had a wall. For his MB IIA chronology, Albright relied on the princely tombs of
The relations between MB IIA Palestine and
The few relevant Egyptian texts consist primarily of the Story of Sinuhe, the Execration Texts, and a moiety of other brief scraps. For a discussion of Sinuhe's adventures, see my Most Ancient Days (JH, 1997a, ch. 8). The Execration Texts are “of the utmost importance, since they contain the earliest known lists of cities, regions, and governors in
Of Egyptian objects found outside of
Given all this, it is clear that Middle Bronze IIA thrived during the time of Dynasty XII (c. 1900-1700 / *1991-1786). Artifacts indicate contact by
“. . .Middle Kingdom materials do not provide any such direct and highly satisfactory Syro-Palestinian correlations as do
The Dynasty XIII connection is clear but chronologically problematic. Thus, when *Canaanite “pottery groups which were considered transitional between MB IIA and MB IIB were dated to the latter part of the Thirteenth Dynasty”, the claim arose that MB IIA ended c. *1710 bc (M. Bietak, 1984); this, however, raises correlation difficulties with Mesopotamia, and invalidates the favored "middle chronology" of Egypt. Mazar demurs, saying that it seems
“that there is still insufficient data from
The upshot of all this is that the MB II culture survived the advent of the Hyksos, and that this transition was not marked by any significant or abrupt change in ceramic styles. As for Dynasty XIII, remember that to precisely the degree that there is a concrete correlation between EB III and the
This brings us, finally, to the specifics of archeology. As we should have come to expect by now, the “small number of excavated sites from MB IIA provide only limited knowledge of the urban architecture of this period.” (Mazar, p. 180.) But we can speak with confidence about the range of the urbanized Amorites of Palestine: “on the evidence of the pottery we can say that the same basic [MB IIA] culture grew up in an area stretching from Ras Shamra in the north to the desert fringes of
The MB IIA civilization was located primarily in northern
Inland, MB IIA levels are either absent or insignificant, except for the valleys of Jezreel and Beth-Shean, where a chain of settlements — including Tel Amar, walled Yoqneam and Megiddo, and Beth Shean (with its rich tomb and unexplored mound) — link the coast with the Jordan Valley. To the south, MB IIA sites are rare. South of Jaffa, at Yavneh-Yam, a large quadrant of land is girded by an MB IIA earthen rampart, with a typical MB II six-pier gate (like those of Hazor and Dan). Since this area is almost entirely without debris, it was apparently abandoned shortly after its construction. On the banks of the Besor Brook (just south of
While EB had modest glacis of stone which supported massive stone or brick walls, MB IIA cities had more complex ramparts. Like northern
Middle Bronze jugs, jars and bowls are characterized by their elegance. Pottery shapes are independent of EB (P. Beck, 1985), due especially to the use of the potter's wheel. But “some surprisingly recall EB III pottery types which went out of fashion in the EB IV/MB I phase. This interesting phenomenon . . . is [thought to be] of importance for tracing the origins of the MB IIA culture.” (Mazar, p. 182.) Small jugs with "stump bases" appeared near the end of EB III, which “may be taken as forerunners of Middle Bronze Age II juglets which were to appear almost *four hundred years later.” (Mazar, p. 132.) Interpreted through our biblical paradigm, we see that there is no gap of *400 years, no "dark age" needed to make the evidence fit reality, and no need to make a hackneyed appeal to evolutionary "convergence"; rather, MB IIA naturally and immediately followed EB III. The already existing MB II juglet style showed up in a decadent EB city as a sign of its cultural weakness. Our reconstruction finds no surprise in a similarity between the pottery styles of contemporary cultures.
MB IIA pottery is typified by the polished red slip of many small vessels, with decorations usually of red or black painted horizontal bands. Sometimes this pottery has triangles drawn in black, filled with red diagonals or webbing, which style is similar to that of
Bronze was used by MB IIA, whereas for the Chalcolithic and EB cultures, copper was “almost the only metal in use for tools and weapons.” (Mazar, p. 184.) Since bronze is copper with 5 to 10% tin, if EB cities had no access to tin, they must be EB rather than MB. It appears that the nearest exploited tin supply was in Afghanistan, requiring far-reaching trade routes, apparently controlled by the MB Amorites, rather than the EB ethnic Canaanites. In this regard, the Mari library (c. 1100 / *1800) notes shipments of tin to Hazor. Tin was also mined in southern
Given the superiority of one technology over another, bronze over copper, it is certainly reasonable to interpret the EB and MB cultures as successive rather than coeval. However, the simple awareness that one society has a technological edge over another does not ensure that parity will follow – that secrets would be shared. Just as in modern times, ancient cultures had secret weapons, secret processes, which gave a competitive advantage. Numerous examples might be cited — most relevant, perhaps, being the perceived Anatolian monopoly of iron before and during the "Iron Age". The point is that the evidence, upon reinspection, is subject to more than the simplistic linear interpretation. With bronze we may be dealing with a later innovation, or with a cultural monopoly which excluded adversaries: remember the Chinese monopoly of silk production, preserved on pain of death. If the presence of bronze is diagnostic of Middle Bronze II, then given the premise here, it is necessary to re-evaluate the designation of any number of sites and levels: EB Canaanites may be called MB Amorites simply because they happened to own the odd bronze artifact.
As for the specific MB use of metal, most significant was the duckbill axehead with a shaft, found in Syria as far east as Mari, in Lebanon, and in northern Palestine; this axe "evidently developed" from the "earlier" copper EB axes decorated with holes — fenestrated (Mazar, p. 184). In southern
This brings us to the Exodus and the Conquest, when the cultures of the Canaanites and Amorites were catastrophically disrupted. This period is found in the "end" of MB I, the end of MB IIA, and the end of EB II/III, and also in the "start" of MB I, and of MB IIB. Remember that MB IIA "just withers away," and its end is dated by the appearance of the culture of MB IIB. This miracle of invisibility is accomplished because the events and evidence of the Exodus period are assigned to the “ends” of MB I and EB IV.
So, at the end of one of the phases of MB I (c. 1520 / *2000 or *1800) — and also of MB IIA (c. 1500 / *1750) —
The Exodus period is recognized from the EB perspective as well, marked by the destruction of its cities. Regarding the destruction of the EB III culture, the chief excavator of
“final end of Early Bronze Age civilizations came with catastrophic completeness. . . .Every [EB] town in
According to our new paradigm, these EB people were the Canaanites; the nomads were, in effect, the Israelites, but more broadly they were the