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Phase I Variables (polity-based)

General variables

♠ RA ♣ ♥ This polity was coded through pers. comm. with Oren Litwin

♠ Original name ♣ Canaan ♥ The true "original name" as such is unknown, given that the ancient Canaanites left few writings, and we are forced to rely on references to them by other cultures. However, cognates of the form כנען (Cana'an) are most common.

♠ Alternative names ♣ Ga-na-na, Ka-na-na, Kenah, Kena'an, Southern Levant ♥ "Ga-na-na" is an obscure reference found on an Eblaite tablet from Tell Mardikh, which may be the earliest reference to Canaan; however, the reference is uncertain.[1] "Ka-na-na" is used in early Egyptian sources to refer to a territory just inside Asia; its use is not concurrent with the use of other forms of Canaan in later Egyptian records, leading some scholars to believe that it is an early term for the same region.[2] "Kenah" and "Kena'an" both appear in the Amarna Letters. "Southern Levant" is a retrospective term for the region used by many modern scholars, though there is disagreement over the exact geographical area so defined.

♠ Peak Date ♣ 1550 BCE ♥ The end of the Middle Bronze Age, and the last point at which the Canaanite "Hyksos" controlled the Egyptian Delta. Shortly thereafter, Egypt reunified under Ahmose, who expelled the Hyksos from the Delta. Following this, Egypt launched a devastating series of invasions of Canaan, notably under Thutmose III; the effect of these was to reduce the Canaanite city-states to vassal status, and (judging from Egyptian records) to drain a great deal of wealth away to Egypt.[3]

Temporal bounds

♠ Duration ♣ 2000-1175 BCE♥ Beginning with the Middle Bronze Age, c. 2000 BCE, and ending with the chaotic destruction period in which the Canaanite cities seemed to fall for good—perhaps because of "Sea People" invasions, perhaps because of ecological stresses, perhaps from Hapiru revolts, perhaps from Israelite invasion, or other factors, or a combination of all of the above.[4]

♠ Degree of centralization ♣ quasi-polity ♥ Canaan featured several city-states, which sometimes formed larger coalitions with each other; in any case, there were usually several opposing coalitions within the territory of Canaan.

♠ Supra-polity relations ♣ unknown: 2000-1550 BCE; nominal allegiance: 1549-1462 BCE; alliance: 1461-1460 BCE; vassalage: 1459-1175 BCE ♥

1550 BCE is the approximate point at which Thutmose I expelled the Hyksos from the Nile Delta, following which the Egyptians invaded Canaan and imposed tribute. For the next several decades, Egyptian control was relatively light, and sometime around 1470 BCE (plus or minus a decade) several Canaanite cities joined a confederation led by Durusha, king of Kadesh, in rebellion against Egypt. Thutmose III then invaded Canaan, leading to the Battle of Megiddo in which the Egyptians won decisively. Following their victory, Egyptian rule become much more involved and oppressive; military garrisons and administrative centers were built across Canaan, and heavy tribute was exacted. (However, Egyptian control was not uniform across Canaan, for example: "At the start of the Late Bronze Age (LB IA), Jaffa remained beyond the reach of the ad hoc campaigns of early 18th-Dynasty pharaohs, which appear to have been concentrated in the coastal plain to the south of Jaffa, with occasional raids made into the northern Levant from the Syrian coast. Jaffa’s first historical mention, as Yapu, occurs among a list of towns that were conquered in connection with the first campaign of Thutmose III…"[5]) Egyptian control periodically stimulated violent Canaanite resistance, sometimes to the extent of destroying whole Egyptian settlements (as with the 12th-century destruction of Jaffa).[6] This continued until the fall of Bronze Age Canaan.

Supra-cultural relations

♠ preceding (quasi)polity ♣ Intermediate Bronze-Age Canaan ♥
♠ relationship to preceding (quasi)polity ♣ continuity ♥
♠ succeeding (quasi)polity ♣ Ancient Phoenicia ♥
♠ Supracultural entity ♣ Amorite Near East ♥ Canaanites were part of the larger Amorite family of peoples, which included the founders of the first Babylonian Empire. Canaanite city-states had significant cultural links with other societies in the Northern Levant and Mesopotamia, and had thriving trade contacts with them. Canaanite architecture often shows influence from the Northern Levant, i.e. Syria. Religious artifacts are similar enough that it is customary to infer details of Canaanite religion from that of Ugarit, which is outside of Canaan proper.[7]
♠ scale of supra-cultural interaction ♣ 300,000 ♥ km squared. Very rough estimate.

♠ Capital ♣ Hazor ♥ Repeatedly referenced in external writings as the most prominent of the Canaanite city-states, and sometimes described as the leader of the most powerful confederacy. Is the largest archaeological tel for Bronze Age Canaan. Described in the biblical Book of Joshua (11:10) as the "head of all [the Canaanite] kingdoms." "The textual evidence also implies that Hazor's prominence stemmed from its central inland position and its role as a point of articulation between the peoples of Egypt and Mesopotamia…. It is also the only Canaanite city mentioned in both the Egyptian 'Excration Texts' and the Mari texts."[8]

♠ Language ♣ Canaanite ♥ Strictly speaking, "Canaanite" could refer to a number of closely related Northwest Semitic dialects spoken during the period that are distinct from Aramaic dialects (by the use of the h- prefix for the definite article). They include early Phoenician, early Hebrew, and several other local dialects.

General Description

_Short description_

Very little is known about the ancient Canaanites and what is known is often through references given by other cultures (such as the Egyptians). Even combined with what is known and not known from archaeological work the overall picture of Canannite society should be taken as a very provisional one.

Canaanites seem to have lived between 2000-1175 BCE, from a time contemporary to the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, the Canaanite Hyksos Period of Egypt and their expulsion, through the New Kingdom of Egypt, to the invasion of the Sea Peoples (which have often been associated with the destruction of Canaanite cities).

Outside of the city-state organization the Canaanites did not achieve any territorial centralization in the Levant. The Canaanites lived in hierarchical city-states that would form alliances and fight opposing coalitions of Canaanites. The region as a whole was under Egyptian control after the invasion of Thutmose III.

One tentative archaeological interpretation of Canaanite government holds that Canaanite regimes were more similar to an household oikos economy than a Mesopotamian-style redistributive state: "in sharp contrast to both the Aegean and the entire ancient Near East, there is not a single indication that literate administration ever played any significant role in the [Middle Bronze Age] Canaanite economy."[9]

However, it appears at least some Canaanites did use writing to record laws. Two fragments of a larger clay tablet (designated Hazor 18) were discovered in 2010 at Tel Hazor, that would possibly have contained as many as 20 or 30 laws (which in turn could have been part of a larger collection of law tablets) in a format similar to the Code of Hammurabi. An earlier tablet, Hazor 5, contains part of the description of a lawsuit, judged by the king personally.[10] It is likely that at least some Canaanite polities would have had formal law codes.

The population of the Canaanites probably never exceeded much beyond 50,000 people in a single polity, though more were likely present towards the end of the period than at the beginning.

_Oren's long description_

During the Bronze Age, Canaan was composed of dozens of "city-states," some strong enough to lead regional confederations against each other or against outside invaders. These city-states appear to have been significantly institutionalized, featuring standing armies, bureaucracies and public works, and official cults. The social structure was highly unequal; most of the land was concentrated in the hands of the small ruling class, with the vast majority of inhabitants being serfs, slaves, or landless vagabonds or nomads. The economy depended heavily on trade, with intensive agriculture of staples such as wine and oil meant for export in exchange for prestige goods such as imported pottery, and tin for making bronze.

Canaan of the Middle and Late Bronze was by no means a unified entity, even as its polities shared significant cultural elements. The varying landscape carried with it different geopolitical conditions for each local polity, strongly conditioning the development of each one and its various political/strategic needs. "The Coastal Plain, the setting for the region's largest political and economic centers, conventionally seen as the hearth of Canaanite civilization, emerges as a hodge-podge of polities with highly variable structures and their attendant political connotations. The Jordan Rift, normally seen as a smaller-scale backwater off the Mediterranean littoral, features settlement patterns most consistent with a series of highly integrated peer polities or city-states, and subregional political coherence. In contrast to both of these lowland areas, the settlement clusters of the Hill Country are more dispersed, with consistent evidence of less settlement integration. When considered structurally, these results suggest three fundamentally different bases for political development in a region normally viewed as a single, albeit fractious, social and cultural entity during the Late Bronze Age. These distinctions help illuminate the foundations of the particularly volatile political dynamics of the southern Levant."[11]

During the Middle Bronze, Canaanite polities were wealthy and powerful enough to extend their influence into the Egyptian Delta (via the so-called "Hyksos). However, the end of the Middle Bronze is marked by the campaign of Thutmose I, who expelled the Hyksos and then campaigned into Canaan proper, imposing Egyptian overlordship over many of the Canaanite cities. As the Late Bronze progressed, Canaanite cities were marked with increasing social turmoil, wracked by repeated uprisings against Egyptian officials or against local elites, and facing periodic invasions from the sea or pressure from the Hittite Empire. The politics of this period are somewhat better understood thanks to the finding of the Amarna Letters, some 350 clay tablets of Egyptian diplomatic correspondence that date to about the middle of the 14th Century BCE. Many of them are from Canaanite "mayors," sending groveling obeisances to the Pharaoh and pleading for military assistance in the face of urgent threats. Finally, during the 12th Century BCE, a series of poorly-understood calamities and city destructions brought the Bronze Age Canaanite civilization to a close; it would be succeeded by the Phoenicians to the north, and the Israelites in the Judean highlands.

(A word of caution is in order about coding methodology. Much of the evidence we have about this polity comes from archaeological finds. However, the brute fact of an archaeological artifact is often used as the basis for considerable interpretation and conjecture. Methods have been improving over time, but still some archaeologists tend to leap far ahead of what the evidence will support. Additionally, the meaning of many finds is hotly disputed by archaeologists, each faction insisting for its point of view: "When any scholar defends the correctness or appropriateness of a singular point of view, or set of data, everything else tends to be analyzed accordingly - alternative views are intensely criticized, dismissed, or ignored entirely, while complementary views or evidence are presented with little critical reflection. Whether the evidence is archaeological or scientific, often it is only partial or ambiguous and so becomes easy to interpret or manipulate in a manner that serves to perpetuate a preconceived idea or point of view. The outcome is often a selective filtering of data and related information and an unwillingness to contemplate or envisage a counter position."[12]

This is a particular problem with regard to establishing chronologies. While on a given archaeological site researchers are (usually) able to determine the boundaries of relative temporal layers, tying those layers to an absolute timeline, or even fitting them into a relative relationship with the layers of other sites, is a fraught business; and when the time period in question is as far back as the Middle Bronze, the available evidence becomes correspondingly scarcer and more difficult to correlate with each other. Unfortunately, many researchers are too quick to claim certainty where none exists.[13]

In short, every data point that is backed up with archaeology must be considered provisional, and new discoveries can totally upend our picture of what happened—as can new interpretations that correct erroneous early interpretations, a constant danger with motivated archaeologists.)

Social Complexity variables

♠ RA ♣ ♥ This polity was coded through pers. comm. with Oren Litwin

Social Scale

♠ Polity territory ♣ [400-3,000] ♥ in squared kilometers. This represents the range of single polity sizes (rather than the size of Canaan as a whole) taken from Finkelstein's estimates of the Middle Bronze Age period.[14] In his reckoning, Akko had the smallest polity with c. 400 km^2, and Jerusalem the largest at about 2,850 km^2. Whether or not these polity sizes are accurate—and they may be overstating the case, since they assume that all the available territory is "claimed" rather than no-man's-land areas existing[15]—they are certainly in the ballpark.

♠ Polity Population ♣ [5,000-40,000]: 2000-1551 BCE; [5,000-60,000]: 1550-1175 BCE ♥ People, in a single polity. Estimate in the Middle Bronze Age taken from Finkelstein's estimate of the Canaanite "territorial units" (i.e. polities),[16] with the upper boundary arbitrarily increased by 30% to account for methodological critiques of the estimating method. Finkelstein estimates his populations based on ground surveys of pottery remains and an assumed population density of 250 people per built-up hectare. However, the suitability of this assumption is not a given. "Some of the densities recently put forward for area coefficients have been based on unwalled, premodern villages…. How similar is such a village to a walled Bronze or Iron Age town or city? Although this is not a case of comparing apples and oranges (more like oranges and grapefruit), it seems probable that the economic constraints of building a defensive system put a permanent physical limit on the settlement area," leading to higher population densities.[17] "…the density coefficients employed by various population estimates of the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Byzantine Period in the southern Levant using a figure of about 200-250 persons per hectare have been based upon data from observations in the old quarters of various Middle Eastern cities, towns, and villages in Iraq, Iran, and Syria (Finkelstein 1996; Broshi and Gophna 1986; Broshi 1979; Hassan 1981:66). Rather than assign an arbitrary density coefficient derived from a vastly different time period and culture, then simply applied to the overall measure of a settlement, more precise means should be used when seeking an accurate population estimate.… Basing a population estimate on the number houses, size of houses, members per household, and residential area of a site is essential for an accurate estimate because these figures can vary widely between sites, regions, and time periods."[18]

The upper bound in the Late Bronze Age is taken from Kennedy's estimate of Hazor (2013:328), increased by c. 20% to account for the built-up settlements within Hazor's territory but outside of Hazor proper.[19] There are several other population estimates that are significantly smaller, but I judge them to be less convincing. "In northern Canaan, there was an apparent trend of urbanization in the region of southern Lebanon between the Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age—the larger sites stayed occupied while some of the smaller sites became unoccupied in Late Bronze I (Marfoe 1998: 170).4 This may indicate an urbanization of the region rather than depopulation, and could be reflective of Canaan as a whole. The rise of city-states, known definitively from the Amarna Letters, could account for this demographic trend of urbanization.5 Yet, broad conclusions about the Late Bronze Age from limited archaeological data and studies have been drawn that claim the Late Bronze Age was a period of demographic decline and even increased nomadism."[20]

♠ Population of the largest settlement ♣ [20,000-40,000]: 2000-1551 BCE; [45,000-50,000]: 1550-1175 BCE ♥ Inhabitants. Middle Bronze Age is taken from Finkelstein's (1992:211) estimate of the population of Shechem (with the upper bound inflated as above), which is judged to have been the largest settlement at the time. Late Bronze Age is taken from Kennedy's (2013:328) estimate of the population of Hazor.

Hierarchical Complexity

♠ Settlement hierarchy ♣ [6-7] ♥ levels.

"A forthcoming analysis of the settlement pattern of the province of Nabada centered at Tell Beydar demonstrates the pattern identified by Wilkinson (Sallaberger and Ur forthcoming). Using textual and archaeological sources the authors of this study have suggested the following hierarchical settlement pattern for Early Jazira III-IV settlements in the province of Nabada belonging to the kingdom of Nagar:

1) A provincial capital (e.g., Tell Beydar, 22.5 ha),

2) Smaller tell settlements (ca. 7 to 10 ha),
3) Villages (ca. 2.5 to 4 ha), and
4) Hamlets (ca. less than 2.5 ha).

It will be demonstrated below that this four tier hierarchy provides the basic outline of the settlement pattern characteristic of the Levant throughout the Bronze Age."[21]

Settlement patterns were somewhat different in the highland areas, due to the lesser availability of cultivatable land. Hence, in the highlands there were three tiers of settlements:

"1) Modest, but well-fortified “capitals” at Jerusalem (ca. 4 to 5 ha?) and Shechem (ca. 4 ha) which were located approximately 50 km apart and were about 4 or more ha in size.

2) Smaller, comparably fortified villages located along major routes through the highlands which included settlements like Abu Zarad (2 ha), Beth-El (2 ha), Beth-Zur (1.5 ha), Dothan (< 4 ha), Far‘ah North (3.1 ha), Hebron (ca. 4.9 ha), Kheibar (2 ha), Marjama (3 ha), en-Najjar (2.5 ha), ‘Urma (1.5 ha), and Shiloh (1.7 ha) which were located within 30 km (a single day’s journey) of the larger centers and were usually less than 4 ha in size.
3) Small, rural settlements, most of which were unfortified, of less than 1 ha in size which filled in the landscape between the large and medium sized settlements."[22]

Kennedy[23] adds three more levels:

5) shrine site—smaller than a village, with primarily cultic activity and little population
6) outpost—small fortified sites with no evidence of residential use.
7) nomadic/seasonal site.

♠ Administrative levels ♣ unknown ♥ levels. One might infer at the very least 1) the ruler, 2) city bureaucratic officials, 3) subordinate officials, and 4) village elders, but we have no hard data.

♠ Religious levels ♣ [2-4] ♥ levels. There is no evidence that multiple cultic sites were connected within a larger organization; they seem to have operated independently, and were probably devoted to localized deities. Thus, the typical shrine would have featured:

1) A chief priest (possibly the only priest).

2) Rarely, subordinate priests.
3) Lesser functionaries, such as female cultic servants.

The possibility of a fourth rung would be relevant to larger cultic sites, such as the one at Hazor, which would have had a more elaborate structure.

♠ Military levels ♣ unknown ♥ levels. No hard information is available from Canaanite examples, but we have considerable (albeit incomplete) information from Ugarit,[24] as well as surrounding areas. It seems clear that the kings were expected to take the field, and often in the front lines. There would be a "commander of the chariots," and potentially subordinate commanders as well, above the actual charioteers and their shield-bearers. The infantry would be made up of elite soldiers, as well as peasant levies; the command structure is unknown. From the evidence of the Amarna Letters, we might infer that units of 100 men were extant—potentially as subdivisions of larger units of 400 men. Ugaritic sources also reference "commanders of a thousand," though Ugarit's army was relatively large.

Additionally, in Ugarit there were several specialized units outside of the normal command structure, such as "friends of the king."


♠ Professional military officers ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Professional soldiers ♣ inferred present ♥ "Distinguishing elite from part-time warriors by different military gear is not an absolute matter. It must be judged separately for each culture and based on the relative distribution and amounts of various types of weaponry. For the MBII period, we have good evidence for elite warriors in the shape of rare ‘gadgets’ like belts, equid burials, etc."[25]

♠ Professional priesthood ♣ present ♥ "A text from Late Bronze Age Ugarit that is of particular interest on the issue of priest residences mentions that the animals referred to earlier in the text are to be sacrificed at the house of the priest (Pardee and Lewis 2002: 52). This text, and the idea that priests were responsible for the temple, in addition to performing various duties and receiving tributes at the temple, suggests that it would have been logical for the priest to reside at the temple or in a room adjacent to it."[26] (Ugarit is not part of Canaan, but practices there were similar and there were certainly many Canaanite temples.)

Bureaucracy characteristics

♠ Full-time bureaucrats ♣ suspected unknown ♥ Evidence of Canaanite administrative structures is sparse; while there seems to have been a reasonably elaborated royal administration at Hazor, from digs at places like Tel Kabri it appears that many Canaanite regimes were more similar to an household oikos economy than a Mesopotamian-style redistributive state: "While elaborate, multi-roomed structures identified as palaces were found by the dozens at sites such as Megiddo, Tel Kabri, Tell el Ajjul, Aphek, and Lachish (Oren 1992), none have yielded any sign of a large-scale redistributive or “command economy” (see below), including large storerooms and palatial workshops. Most importantly, in sharp contrast to both the Aegean and the entire ancient Near East, there is not a single indication that literate administration ever played any significant role in the [Middle Bronze Age] Canaanite economy."[27] Parallels are likely with the Weberian archetype of a royal household.[28]

♠ Examination system ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Merit promotion ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Specialized government buildings ♣ present ♥


♠ Formal legal code ♣ present ♥ Two fragments of a larger clay tablet (designated Hazor 18) were discovered in 2010 at Tel Hazor, that would possibly have contained as many as 20 or 30 laws (which in turn could have been part of a larger collection of law tablets) in a format similar to the Code of Hammurabi. (The fragments themselves concern torts having to do with injury to a slave that has been rented from his master.) An earlier tablet, Hazor 5, contains part of the description of a lawsuit, judged by the king personally. "…the Laws of Hazor, inscribed on Hazor clay, may be viewed as further evidence of the position of Hazor as a kind of Babylon/Hattuša of the cuneiform far west — in other words, a city of the first and most important rank ruled by a great king."[29] It is likely that at least some other Canaanite polities would have had formal law codes, but whether such codes were standard is impossible to know.

♠ Judges ♣ unknown ♥ Note the above, in which a lawsuit is judged by the king himself rather than a dedicated judge.

♠ Courts ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Professional Lawyers ♣ absent ♥

Specialized Buildings: polity owned

♠ irrigation systems ♣ present ♥ "As the emphasis on agriculture grew [during the Middle Bronze Age], hydraulic technologies were increasingly employed in order to boost production. Climactic conditions in areas such as the Huleh Valley were probably not sufficient for dry-farming, and feeding the growing population living in and around Hazor required the use of irrigation technology. Sealed, stone-built channels that diverted runoff water to exterior channels and moats were in use in cities such as Dan, Tel el-Ajjul, Tel Beit Mirsim, and Gezer. The stone-roofed canals found in the fields surrounding Hazor ran for several hundred meters in some instances."[30]
♠ drinking water supply systems ♣ present ♥ Water shafts likely dating to the Middle Bronze Age have been found at Megiddo and Gezer; a truly massive water tunnel was found at Hazor.[31]
♠ markets ♣ inferred present ♥ "…the antlers that were strewn along the southern side of the passageway [within the gatehouse of Tel Yafo] together with the vessels and seeds provide a glimpse into the role of the gate as a marketplace. The remains of these antlers included both whole and carefully cut portions, which reveal that a trade in antler tools and raw materials was conducted within the passageway…. Furthermore, the quantity and conditions of the remains, because they showed no evidence of having been crushed, indicate that they were located in the gateway before the gate’s destruction, in either sacks or baskets of which no traces could be identified. The patterns of deposition were also not random but rather consisted of collections of types (e.g., olive pits, wheat, chickpeas). Seeds and artifacts recovered within the gate indicate that the Egyptian gate was not an exclusively defensive structure but that it also likely served as an administrative center (second story), a storage space (second story), and possibly a market (passageway)."[32]
♠ food storage sites ♣ present ♥ For example, "Jaffa is also mentioned during the 14th century B.C.E. in the Amarna Letters and again during the 13th century B.C.E. in a letter from Ugarit to the Egyptian governor at the agricultural estate at Aphek. From these references it appears that one of Jaffa’s main roles was its strategic function as a granary for the Egyptian army, storing grain from Egyptian estates throughout the coastal plain."[33] On another note, a fairly large collection of wine jars was found in the Middle Bronze palace at Tel Kabri,[34] though it seems to have been meant for royal household alone.[35]

Transport infrastructure

♠ Roads ♣ inferred present ♥ Major trade routes such as the so-called Via Maris and the "Ways of Horus"[36] were critical to the region's economy; the Egyptians at least spent considerable effort garrisoning them, and it is likely the local polities did as well.
♠ Bridges ♣ inferred absent ♥ Bridges were absent during the Iron Age,[37] and there are no references to their presence earlier.
♠ Canals ♣ absent ♥
♠ Ports ♣ present ♥ Major ports included Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza,[38] as well as Jaffa.[39]

Special purpose sites

♠ Mines or quarries ♣ present ♥ Sandstone quarries dating back to the Early Bronze Age have been identified in the Ramon Crater in the Negev.[40] Copper mines in the Timna Valley date from possibly the Chalcolithic Age,[41] and operated under Egyptian control at least in the Late Bronze period.


Writing System

♠ Mnemonic devices ♣ inferred present ♥ The lack of written religious material[42] suggests the use of oral traditions, which surely would have employed mnemonics to facilitate transmission.
♠ Nonwritten records ♣ present ♥ "Although Early Bronze Age society in Canaan did not [widely] adopt writing, they did have a “standardized symbolic system” that included… cylinder seals - the use of cylinder seals as an administrative tool depends on the types of seals, their context and distribution.… The widespread use of potters’ marks on closed vessels - the two most accepted explanations for potter's marks are that they indicate the content of the vessel, or that they indicate who produced the vessel (Wood 1990, 45-46)."[43] The significant architectural complexity of Canaanite constructions, despite the paucity of writings discovered, strongly suggests some alternative form of recordkeeping.[44]
♠ Written records ♣ present ♥ Limited use of Akkadian Cuneiform writing, primarily in diplomatic correspondence and bureaucratic administration.[45] The use of Akkadian becomes relatively more frequent in the Late Bronze Age, but still remains quite sparse by comparison to other polities in the Ancient Near East.
♠ Script ♣ present ♥ Limited use of Akkadian Cuneiform writing, primarily in diplomatic correspondence and bureaucratic administration.[46] The use of Akkadian becomes relatively more frequent in the Late Bronze Age, but still remains quite sparse by comparison to other polities in the Ancient Near East.
♠ Phonetic alphabetic writing ♣ absent: 2000-1801 BCE; {present; absent}:1800-1550 BCE; present: 1550-1175 BCE ♥ "The alphabet seems to have been invented in Egypt by Semites living there (Hamilton 2006). Some suggest it reached the southern Levant during the Middle Bronze Age (Hamilton 2006); others think this only occurred in the Late Bronze Age (Sass 2005). The exact period is of little importance to this discussion, since very few (if any) alphabetic inscriptions can be dated to this period. Again, this suggests that writing was not common during this period. Even if alphabetic script appears in the Middle Bronze Age, it is only at the end of this period, and does not represent an integral part of the culture."[47]

Kinds of Written Documents

♠ Lists, tables, and classifications ♣ inferred present ♥ "There is a sharp increase in written finds from Canaan dating to the Late Bronze Age. In fact, more than 50 percent of the Akkadian tablets that have been found in the southern Levant date to this period. Within this corpus, one can add the Amarna archive, which includes many [diplomatic] letters from Canaan. Excavations at Syrian sites including Emar, Alalakh, and Ugarit have revealed several rich archives, and it is tempting to assume that large Canaanite urban centers to the south of these sites had similar bureaucratic system that included administrative archives. Nevertheless, written finds from Late Bronze Age Canaan are scarce, and it seems that documents were limited to administrative needs. This differs from the situation in Syria, where writing was also used for literary purposes (Schniedewind 2004, 40-41)."[48]
♠ Calendar ♣ absent ♥
♠ Sacred Texts ♣ absent ♥ "…no documents demonstrating religious or mythological literature have been found."[49]
♠ Religious literature ♣ absent ♥ "…no documents demonstrating religious or mythological literature have been found."[50]
♠ Practical literature ♣ absent ♥
♠ History ♣ absent ♥
♠ Philosophy ♣ absent ♥
♠ Scientific literature ♣ absent ♥
♠ Fiction ♣ absent ♥


♠ Articles ♣ present ♥ So-called "money bracelets" made of tin-bronze have been found dating to the Middle Bronze, and are assumed to have been used as payment objects.[51]
♠ Tokens ♣ absent ♥
♠ Precious metals ♣ present ♥ Gold, silver and copper were commonly traded by Levantine merchant ships.[52]
♠ Foreign coins ♣ absent ♥ The earliest coins known worldwide were minted in Anatolia in the Seventh Century BCE. No coins have been found in the Ancient Near East that date from before the Persian Empire.[53]
♠ Indigenous coins ♣ absent ♥ The earliest coins known worldwide were minted in Anatolia in the Seventh Century BCE. No coins have been found in the Ancient Near East that date from before the Persian Empire.[54]
♠ Paper currency ♣ absent ♥

Postal System

♠ Couriers ♣ unknown ♥
♠ Postal stations ♣ unknown ♥
♠ General postal service ♣ absent ♥

Warfare variables

♠ RA ♣ ♥ This polity was coded through pers. comm. with Oren Litwin

Military Technologies


♠ Javelins ♣ present ♥ But note: "Despite my attempt to assert that functionally unique characteristics should be distinguishable between javelins and spears in antiquity, distinguishing between the two today is difficult, if not impossible."[55]
♠ Atlatl ♣ absent ♥
♠ Slings ♣ present ♥ 'The problem of identifying the sling is no less significant for the Early or Middle Bronze Age periods in the Levant. Even so there is some notable archaeological evidence of its use in the Levant and northern Mesopotamia during the periods under consideration. Numerous clay sling bullets of five different shapes have, for example, been recovered from the late third millennium site of Tell Sweyhat in Syria (Stout 1977)."[56]
♠ Self bow ♣ present ♥
♠ Composite bow ♣ present ♥ Composite bows were known as far back as the Early Bronze period in the Levant, though they were uncommon and the simple bow was more frequently used.[57] However, they were replaced almost entirely with composite bows in the Middle Bronze period. "Indeed, the introduction of the chariot ca. 2000 B.C. coincided with the development of the composite bow, which quickly replaced the simple bow in most military contexts."[58]
♠ Crossbow ♣ absent ♥
♠ Tension siege engines ♣ absent ♥
♠ Sling siege engines ♣ absent ♥
♠ Gunpowder siege artillery ♣ absent ♥
♠ Handheld firearms ♣ absent ♥

Handheld weapons

♠ War clubs ♣ present ♥ "In light of the introduction of the ax during the EB, it would seem that the club rarely, if ever, functioned as the sole, short-range weapon of the Levantine soldier. The three Asiatics depicted on the East Wall (south side) of Tomb 2 at Beni Hasan each bear another weapon in addition to the club; the front warrior bears both the eye ax and the club, while the two soldiers after him bear clubs and spears (Newberry 1893:pl. 16)."[59]
♠ Battle axes ♣ present ♥ "Although by the third millennium the ax had replaced the mace as the leading weapon for hand-to-hand combat, the mace continued in use as a ceremonial weapon through the second millennium in the Levant…"[60]
♠ Daggers ♣ present ♥ "If a siege had advanced to the point where a town’s inhabitants engaged in hand- to-hand combat in an attempt to repel the attackers, weapons such as the ax and the dagger would have played the most important role."[61]See also Shalev (2004), which catalogues the major types. At an archaeological dig near Motza, near Jerusalem: "In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals - warriors - who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said.[62]
♠ Swords ♣ present ♥ Of two major types: the Egyptian-style sickle sword, and the European-style straight sword—both of bronze.[63]
♠ Spears ♣ present ♥ "The depiction of the troops of Lagaš [in Mesopotamia] armed with spears in what appear to have been a close phalanx-type formation demonstrates the use of the spear in open battle during this period (see Yadin 1963:134f.). Whether such battle tactics were common among EB or MB armies in the Levant is not certain, the spear does, nevertheless, appear in the archaeological assemblage of the Levant in both periods."[64] At an archaeological dig near Motza, near Jerusalem: "In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals - warriors - who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said.[65]
♠ Polearms ♣ absent ♥

Animals used in warfare

♠ Dogs ♣ absent ♥
♠ Donkeys ♣ present ♥ "We speak about equids, since often the bones do not offer precise identification of species."[66] However, donkeys had been common in the region for millennia, and at the very least would have been used to carry supplies. At an archaeological dig near Motza, near Jerusalem: "In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals - warriors - who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said. “There’s also an amazing find,” said Davis, “which is a whole donkey, domesticated, that was buried in front of the tomb probably when they sealed it.” Added Vardi, the donkey was apparently meant to serve the warriors in the world to come."[67]
♠ Horses ♣ inferred present ♥ "We speak about equids, since often the bones do not offer precise identification of species."[68] Used to pull battle chariots; they were not ridden.[69] Under the assumption that pitched battles were rarer than sieges[70] (during which a chariot would be of little use), chariots were assumed to have a limited role in combat until the Late Bronze age, being used instead during the Middle Bronze for patrolling borders or enforcing blockades, and the transportation of mobile archers.[71]
♠ Camels ♣ unknown ♥ While camels were definitely used in mounted combat during the Iron Age, their use during the Bronze Age has little attestation, and none in military contexts.
♠ Elephants ♣ absent ♥


♠ Wood, bark, etc ♣ inferred absent ♥ Specifically with reference to body armor; shields were very likely made of wood at least some of the time, see below.
♠ Leather, cloth ♣ present ♥ In the aftermath of the Battle of Megiddo, Thutmose III reported capturing 200 suits of leather armor.[72]
♠ Bronze ♣ present ♥
♠ Iron ♣ absent ♥
♠ Steel ♣ absent ♥
♠ Shields ♣ unknown: 2000-1551 BCE; present: 1550-1175 BCE ♥ "It is unfortunate that no artifactual evidence is available for the use of the shield during the late third and early second millennia in the Levant. This is no doubt due to the fact that shields, like slings and bows, were constructed from organic materials such as leather, wood, or reeds, as is suggested by Egyptian depictions of Asiatic shields in the tomb of Intef…"[73] "It is worth noting that none of the Asiatics depicted in the Middle Kingdom Beni Hasan reliefs carry shields, even though they are shown carrying axes and spears, and no archaeological evidence of the shield has thus far been unearthed in the Levant for either the MB or LB. Therefore, aside from the pictorial evidence noted above concerning small ox-hide shields used by Asiatics at the start of the MB in Egypt, the earliest evidence for the form and construction of the shield in the Levant dates to the LB and is also derived from Egyptian New Kingdom reliefs (Yadin 1963:83f.). These shields are depicted as small, light, and rectangular, and were clearly intended for personal protection in hand-to-hand combat [whereas earlier shields were much larger, and meant to protect against arrows]."[74]
♠ Helmets ♣ present ♥ Canaanite helmets are depicted in Egyptian tomb art dating to Thutmose III.[75]
♠ Breastplates ♣ unknown ♥
♠ Limb protection ♣ unknown ♥ The various Aegean peoples (including the Philistines) were known to use greaves well before the 12th Century BCE,[76] and it is possible that Canaanite armorers borrowed the practice, but we have no evidence of same.
♠ Chainmail ♣ absent ♥
♠ Scaled armor ♣ present ♥ Either made entirely of bronze (for kings and elite warriors), or lesser numbers of bronze scales layered over leather of various thicknesses (which was cheaper).[77]
♠ Laminar armor ♣ absent ♥
♠ Plate armor ♣ absent ♥

Naval technology

♠ Small vessels (canoes, etc) ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Merchant ships pressed into service ♣ present ♥
♠ Specialized military vessels ♣ unknown ♥ Canaanite polities were able traders, with many large merchant vessels attested to. These were also used for military purposes: the Egyptian Thutmose III describes capturing two cargo ships during his defeat of the Hyksos.[78] It is unclear, however, whether dedicated military craft existed.


♠ Settlements in a defensive position ♣ present ♥ Where possible, settlements were built on top of hills, or "tells". Where the landscape lacked such features, freestanding walls were built, or other features of the landscape used: "As indicated in the previous chapter the major fortified settlements comprising the first three tiers of settlement within the kingdom of Ashkelon were defended in a nearly identical fashion featuring rectilinear plans enclosed by earthen ramparts, fosses, and fortification walls. These settlements seem to have been predominantly situated along wadis in order, I believe, to take advantage of the increased defensive capability which the only regular feature of the landscape could provide (on at least one side of the settlement)."[79]
♠ Wooden palisades ♣ present ♥ "The use of wood in the construction of fortifications has been attested at a number of sites (e.g., Alalah, Byblos, Akko (?), and Ashkelon). Given its limited availability and the cost of incorporating it into mudbrick and stone fortifications, it would have been primarily intended to cover closed spaces which could not be spanned by other materials, as it was similarly used in palace construction. Otherwise it was used most extensively for the construction of the doors for gates."[80]
♠ Earth ramparts ♣ present ♥ Massive walls of rammed earth (terre pisée) were standard.[81] When the defenses included an earthen glacis (steep slope forming the outer bank), which was frequent, it was often covered with plaster: "Furthermore, the use of plaster in the construction of glacis (e.g., Jericho, etc.) indicates that it was also vital to maintaining the integrity of earthen ramparts with slopes between 30° and 40°."[82]
♠ Ditch ♣ present ♥ Known in the archaeological literature as "fosse", a standard feature of most Middle Bronze fortifications.[83]
♠ Moat ♣ inferred absent ♥ "Nevertheless, the results of this archaeological survey suggests that there is no clear evidence that any MB features in the Levant should be identified as moats. While the bottoms of some fosses may be below the water table today in certain areas, the lack of data for the level of the water table in the MB at the time of their construction makes it impossible to be sure that they were intended to hold water…"[84]
♠ Stone walls (non-mortared) ♣ present ♥ "Stone in various forms, as discussed above, was frequently used to build fortifications. No data exist whereby the procurement of stone from a great distance can be postulated in the construction process for MB fortifications. Aside from the effort required to shape large chunks of stone into roughly hewn blocks for the foundations of gates (e.g., Tuqan), the cyclopean blocks used in revetment walls (e.g., Shechem), and the more delicately carved orthostats (e.g., Alalah, Ebla, Hazor, Shechem, etc.), a considerable amount of effort appears to have been expended to obtain crushed or chipped stone which was used in rampart fills."[85] However, more commonly stone was used in the foundation of defensive walls, which were made of mudbrick.
♠ Stone walls (mortared) ♣ present ♥ Aside from the above, chipped stone was often used as filler material in mudbrick walls and earthen ramparts, or as a protective patina.
♠ Fortified camps ♣ unknown ♥
♠ Complex fortifications ♣ absent ♥ Though walls were typically single-layer, they could nevertheless be massive: "One particular hallmark of fortifications during the “Late Rampart” phase, especially during the late MB II (IIC), appears to have been the construction of massive revetment walls built of cyclopean masonry."[86]
♠ Long walls ♣ 0 ♥ km.
♠ Modern fortifications ♣ absent ♥

Phase II Variables (polity-based)

Institutional Variables

♠ RA ♣ ♥ This polity was coded through pers. comm. with Oren Litwin

Limits on Power of the Chief Executive

Power distributed

♠ Constraint on executive by government ♣ absent ♥
♠ Constraint on executive by non-government ♣ absent ♥
♠ Impeachment ♣ absent ♥

Social Mobility


Elite status

♠ elite status is hereditary ♣ present ♥ Certainly, according to the Amarna letters, rulership of the city-states was hereditary. Very likely, the landowning class was also hereditary.

Religion and Normative Ideology

♠ RA ♣ ♥ This polity was coded through pers. comm. with Oren Litwin

Deification of Rulers

♠ Rulers are legitimated by gods ♣ inferred present ♥ "The religious politics of antiquity can be called “divine patronage” (Noll 2001a, pp. 207-15, 265-8). In most cases, it worked this way: a human king owed his authority to one god, his divine patron." [87]

♠ Rulers are gods ♣ absent ♥

Normative Ideological Aspects of Equity and Prosociality

♠ Ideological reinforcement of equality ♣ absent ♥ "The four ranks in [Canaanite] society - royal, noble, peasant, and slave - were mirrored by four tiers of gods (Handy 1994; M. S. Smith 2004, pp. 101-5). At the top stood the divine patron and sometimes his spouse. In the second rank were the cosmic gods, who ruled aspects of the natural realm such as the storms that fertilized the land, the lights in the sky, the endlessly chaotic sea, the vast earth, and the eternal underworld. On the third level were the gods who assisted with practical aspects of daily life, such as gods of craftsmanship, gods of childbearing, and the family ancestors who had become gods after death. The lowest rank of the gods, corresponding to slaves in human society, were the messengers." [88]

♠ Ideological thought equates rulers and commoners ♣ absent ♥
♠ Ideological thought equates elites and commoners ♣ absent ♥

♠ Ideology reinforces prosociality ♣ inferred present ♥

♠ production of public goods ♣ inferred present ♥ Along the model of patron-client relations.


  1. Tubb (1998:15).
  2. Redford (1993).
  3. Golden (2009:5-7).
  4. Knapp/Manning (2016).
  5. Burke et al. (2017:90).
  6. Burke et al. (2017).
  7. Noll (2007).
  8. Golden (2004:87).
  9. (Yasur-Landau et al. 2015, 609). Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline, Andrew J. Koh, David Ben-Shlomo, Nimrod Marom, Alexandra Ratzlaff and Inbal Samet. 2015. "Rethinking Canaanite Palaces? The Palatial Economy of Tel Kabri during the Middle Bronze Age." Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 40, No. 6: 607-625.
  10. (Horowitz, Oshima, Vukosavovic 2012) Wayne Horowitz, Oshima Takayoshi and Filip Vukosavovic. 2012. "Hazor 18: Fragments of a Cuneiform Law Collection from Hazor." Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 62, No. 2: 158-176.
  11. Savage/Falconer (2003:42).
  12. Knapp/Manning (2016:101).
  13. See extensive discussion in Knapp/Manning (2016).
  14. Finkelstein (1992:211); cf. Burke (2004:267).
  15. Cf. Scott (2009).
  16. Finkelstein (1992:211); cf. Burke (2004:267).
  17. Zorn (1994:33)
  18. Kennedy (2013:12).
  19. Cf. Finkelstein (1992:211)
  20. Kennedy (2013:3).
  21. Burke (2004:238).
  22. Burke (2004:272).
  23. Kennedy (2013:15).
  24. Rainey (1965).
  25. Klettner/Levi (2016:10).
  26. Kennedy (2013:58).
  27. Yasur-Landau et al. (2015:609).
  28. Cf. Weber (1919).
  29. Horowitz/Oshima/Vukosavovic (2012).
  30. Golden (2004:84).
  31. See diagram here.
  32. Burke et al. (2017:110).
  33. Burke et al. (2017:90).
  34. Koh/Yassur-Landau/Cline (2014).
  35. Yasur-Landau et al. (2015).
  36. Sugarman (2000:18).
  37. Dorsey (1991).
  38. Sugarman (2000:34).
  39. Burke et al. (2017).
  40. (Milevski 2005:152).
  41. Genz (2000).
  42. Shai/Uziel (2010).
  43. Shai/Uziel (2010:69).
  44. Shai/Uziel (2010).
  45. Shai/Uziel (2010).
  46. Shai/Uziel (2010).
  47. Shai/Uziel (2010:73).
  48. Shai/Uziel (2010:74)
  49. Shai/Uziel (2010:76)
  50. Shai/Uziel (2010:76)
  51. Ilan (2003:339), Rosenfeld/Ilani/Dvorachek (1997:862).
  52. Wachsmann (1998:39-40).
  53. Bienkowski/Millard (2000:77-78)
  54. Bienkowski/Millard (2000:77-78)
  55. Burke (2004:83).
  56. Burke (2004:59).
  57. Burke (2004:62-63).
  58. Burke (2004:57).
  59. Burke (2004:82).
  60. Burke (2004:82).
  61. Burke (2004:85).
  62. Amanda Borschel-Dan. 16th July 2019. A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem. Times of Israel. Site accessed: 20th August 2019.
  63. Shalev (2004).
  64. Burke (2004:83).
  65. Amanda Borschel-Dan. 16th July 2019. A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem. Times of Israel. Site accessed: 20th August 2019.
  66. Kletter/Levi (2016:9).
  67. Amanda Borschel-Dan. 16th July 2019. A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem. Times of Israel. Site accessed: 20th August 2019.
  68. Kletter/Levi (2016:9).
  69. Burke (2004:54).
  70. Cf. Burke (2004:89).
  71. Burke (2004:56-57).
  72. Zorn (2010).
  73. Burke (2004:70).
  74. Burke (2004:71).
  75. Zorn (2010).
  76. Zorn (2010).
  77. Zorn (2010).
  78. Wachsmann (1998:39).
  79. Burke (2004:259-260).
  80. Burke (2004:159-160).
  81. Burke (2004).
  82. Burke (2004:159).
  83. Burke (2004:146).
  84. Burke (2004:147).
  85. Burke (2004:160).
  86. Burke (2004:173).
  87. Noll (2007).
  88. Noll (2007).

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