Over the last century, Near Eastern Studies, Biblical Archaeology, and Egyptology have developed individual approaches and specific traditions in addressing the historical questions and specific problems of the pre-classical period of the wider Near East. The Austrian Academy of Sciences is one of the few international research institutions that developed a multidisciplinary focus on, and an integrative approach to, the history and archaeology of Egypt and the Levant. Levantine and Egyptian Histories aims at consolidating and expanding this internationally unique research profile and at continuing to stimulate and to advance the cooperation between Egyptology, Biblical Archaeology, and Near Eastern Studies via a combination of philology and archaeology. Consequently, on the one hand, text sources from Egypt and the Levant and, on the other hand, the material culture unearthed by the archaeological disciplines are considered as vital sources of equal importance.
Levantine and Egyptian Histories focusses on the Chalcolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages (c. 5000–600 BC) in the region of the Nile Valley, the eastern Mediterranean littoral and its hinterland up to the Syrian and Jordanian deserts. Levantine and Egyptian Histories explores the history and archaeology as well as transregional phenomena such as trade and exchange, migration and identity, cultural transfer, adaptation, and adoption, language contact, and language development. While current projects focus mainly on chronology, history, culture, and interregional contacts of the Bronze Ages, Levantine and Egyptian Histories also aims at developing new projects including the Iron Age.
The long-term aim of Levantine and Egyptian Histories is to provide a firm basis for overarching research questions that lead to the historical synthesis of Egyptian-Levantine interconnections based on the evaluation of philological and archaeological data in concord with a radiocarbon-backed chronological framework, all contributing as equal sources.
A comprehensive chronological framework is fundamental for any historical research question. The ERC Starting Grant “Challenging Time(s)” investigates the written foundations of Egyptian historical chronology by systematically collecting and evaluating contemporaneous dated inscriptions, by analysing Egyptian kinglists and Manetho, and by establishing additional means of counterchecking via genealogies and sequences of officials. This philological and linguistic approach will result in a revised and more fine-tuned historical chronology for ancient Egypt, which is the indispensable backbone for the synchronisation of the relative chronologies of the Levant. It will also refine and update the framework of current radiocarbon models for the Egyptian historical chronology.
At the same time, radiocarbon sequences from key-sites in the Levant help to create an independent chronological framework for the Levant. “CINEMA” and “Tracing Transformations” collect and analyse new short-lived samples from securely defined stratigraphic contexts in collaboration with excavations in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan in order to create site-specific radiocarbon sequences and to produce a radiocarbon-backed absolute chronology that can be synchronised with the historical chronologies of both Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Philology and Linguistic Research
Written sources are a predominant source for Egyptian-Levantine relations throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. Levantine and Egyptian Histories regards Egyptian, but also Near Eastern texts as a vital source that, after rigid source-criticism, have to be connected to and evaluated in conjunction with the archaeological sources and with a radiocarbon-backed chronological framework. “Challenging Time(s)”, “Egypt and the Levant in the Early Bronze Age”, and “Tracing Transformations” re-evaluate Egyptian textual sources according to this principle and provide new insights into long-held historical paradigms.
“Untersuchungen zur Nominalkomposition des Ägyptischen“ focusses on ancient Egyptian compound nouns, a special type of which (“Ältere Komposita”) flourished in the 3rd millennium BC, but quickly ceased to be productive afterwards. All examples of this special type thus became fossilised instances among a corpus of key-expressions of the lingua sacra, the lingua regis, and the lingua scientifica. Therefore, the linguistic investigation of this special type of compound nouns opens a unique window in order to assess and access the cultural setting and the world of thought during the formative phase of the Egyptian culture.
Archaeology and Excavations
Levantine and Egyptian Histories views the material remains unearthed by archaeology as an essential source for reconstructing Egyptian-Levantine relations and history. A key-aspect is the Austro-Israeli Expedition to Lachish, conducted jointly between the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as part of the project “Tracing Transformations”. Tel Lachish is a key-site of the southern Levant, encompassing a stratigraphy ranging from the Early Bronze Age down to the end of the Iron Age. Currently, work focusses on Area S, a domestic quarter located on the western edge of the site in order to explore the Middle/Late Bronze Age transition, and on Area P, where previous excavations unearthed part of a Middle Bronze Age palace.