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“The Territory Facing Jaffa”: Cultural Landscapes of a Mediterranean Port and its Hinterland (ca. 2000–539 B.C.E.)

  • Author(s): Pierce, George Allen
  • Advisor(s): Burke, Aaron A
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation presents a synthesis of settlement patterns in the central coastal plain of modern Israel from the onset of the Middle Bronze Age to the end of the Iron Age (ca. 2000–539 B.C.E.). The ancient mound of Jaffa, situated on the southern Levantine coast south of the outlet of the Yarkon River, was the closest maritime outlet for Jerusalem and other highland centers in ancient times. Jaffa has the distinct status of being one of the few ports on the southern Levantine coast featuring an almost continual occupation history from the Middle Bronze Age through the modern era. Yet a lack of inclusion for Jaffa and other hinterland sites in archaeological and historical studies of the coastal plain is evident. In light of renewed excavations on the ancient mound of Jaffa, new analyses of the site’s and region’s material culture recovered from excavations conducted over the last sixty years necessitate the current examination of regional settlement patterns and systems to elucidate the potential economic and cultural connections between the port and inland sites, both urban and rural in nature by providing a regional perspective for material culture recovered at Jaffa. Additionally, a reconstruction of the variety of local terrestrial, aquatic, and anthropogenic biomes of the Bronze and Iron Ages as represented in the archaeological record is presented.

It is argued here that the fundamental connections between all the sites in various periods can be interpreted through the framework of a maritime cultural landscape. Thus situated, Jaffa served as a gateway for the coastal plain and the highlands, connecting inland sites with materials from the coast and acting as a transit point for commodities produced inland that would be transshipped to other gateways in the eastern Mediterranean. Despite fluctuations in Jaffa’s prominence resulting from changes in political control, shared material culture with inland sites illustrates the strong connections that Jaffa forged with its hinterland as a unique central place within the settlement system of the coastal plain.

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