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Tales of the City? ‘Urhanism’ in the Early Bronze Age Levant from Mediterranean and Levantine Perspectives

Issue: Vol 16 No. 1 (2003) June 2003

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jmea.v16i1.3


Over the last century, scholars have proposed many models for understanding the rise of urbanism and the nature of urban society throughout the Mediterranean and the Levant. As part of this dialogue, the papers assembled here represent the result of a session held at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in New Orleans (April 2001) to explore recent paradigms for understanding the question of urbanism, specifi cally from a Levantine perspective. The aim of this session was to bring together scholars actively conducting research on the Early Bronze Age (EBA) in the Levant in order to review the form, nature and scale of social complexity and urbanism in Syria- Palestine during the later 4th and 3rd millennia BC.

The papers in this issue focus on the historical development, organizational frameworks, and societal fl avor of EBA walled communities in the Levant, encompassing modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt.While this region is not tremendously large, Levantine sub-regions experienced different developmental trajectories in terms of the nature and scale of their EBA societies. Table 1 provides a schematic of chronological sequences in current use in the Levant, correlating the major regions and chronologies.

The reader should be aware that there remain real problems with the periodization of Syrian material. As Campbell (2000: 53–54) observes, western Syria represents the junction of several confl icting terminologies, each designed to refl ect a different, non-Syrian, material culture sequence (in essence those of the southern Levant, Mesopotamia and Anatolia). As these issues are treated elsewhere in more detail (Marro 2000; Philip 2002: 209–10), they are not discussed at length here. Suffi ce it to say that recent studies (Philip and Baird 2000; Joffe and Dessel 2000) have raised doubts about the region-wide reliability of even the supposedly well-founded Palestinian ceramic sequence.

Author: Meredith S. Chesson, Graham Philip

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