Tracing transformations in the southern Levant

From collapse to consolidation in the mid-second millennium BC

View from Tel Lachish to the western Shephelah (© K. Streit)

‘Tracing transformations’ will explore the history and archaeology of the crucial period of the late Middle and early Late Bronze Age in the southern Levant. This period saw the demise of the Middle Bronze Age city-states, the end of the Hyksos Empire in Egypt, and the rising interest and involvement of the Pharaohs in the Levant, culminating in the military campaigns of the Thutmosid period and leading eventually to the ‘International Age’ of the Late Bronze Age Amarna period.

This transformative period is still poorly understood due to an insecure chronological framework with many open questions regarding the chronological synchronization of Egypt and the Levant. So far, assessments of this period were also dominated by a text-based approach relying heavily on Egyptian sources, while archaeological data from the southern Levant was not always fully appreciated.

‘Tracing transformations’ will shed new light on this formative period by (1) a targeted excavation of late Middle and early Late Bronze Age settlement layers at Tel Lachish, a key-site of the southern Levant, in cooperation with Prof. Ilan Sharon and Dr. Katharina Streit of Hebrew University at Jerusalem, Israel, (2) establishing an absolute chronology for the late Middle and early Late Bronze Age based on sequences of radiocarbon dates that can be correlated with the radiocarbon-backed New Kingdom chronology of Egypt, (3) a comprehensive study of the development of material culture of the southern Levant based on the radiocarbon chronology (including pottery, imports, prestige goods, foreign influences, and architecture), and (4) a new historical assessment of the period based on the new chronological framework, the results of the study on material culture, and a critical study of the available textual sources.

Applying this variety of approaches (excavation, establishing an absolute chronology, studies on material culture and history) will allow to view this formative period from very different angles and contribute to our understanding of historical trajectories that led to the ‘International Age’ of the Late Bronze Age.