Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Department of Near Eastern Studies is concerned with the languages, literatures, and civilizations of the ancient, medieval, and modern Near East. The Department offers specialized training in Archaeology, Art History, Assyriology, Egyptology, Iranian Studies, Judaic and Islamic Studies, Comparative Semitics, Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian.

Cover page of Assembling the Iron Age Levant: The Archaeology of Communities, Polities, and Imperial Peripheries

Assembling the Iron Age Levant: The Archaeology of Communities, Polities, and Imperial Peripheries

(2016)

Archaeological research on the Iron Age (1200–500 BC) Levant, a narrow strip of land bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Desert, has been balkanized into smaller culture historical zones structured by modern national borders and disciplinary schools. One consequence of this division has been an inability to articulate broader research themes that span the wider region. This article reviews scholarly debates over the past two decades and identifies shared research interests in issues such as ethnogenesis, the development of territorial polities, economic intensification, and divergent responses to imperial interventions. The broader contributions that Iron Age Levantine archaeology offers global archaeological inquiry become apparent when the evidence from different corners of the region is assembled.

Cover page of Extensification in a Mediterranean Semi-Arid Marginal Zone: An Archaeological Case Study from Early Iron Age Jordan's Eastern Karak Plateau

Extensification in a Mediterranean Semi-Arid Marginal Zone: An Archaeological Case Study from Early Iron Age Jordan's Eastern Karak Plateau

(2014)

The extensification of agricultural systems into marginal lands is a common response to environmental,economic, and political pressures for more cultivable land. Yet the course that extensification takes inparticular instances is unpredictable given the choices available to producers. This article investigates aninstance of extensification during the late second millennium BCE on the semi-arid Eastern Karak Plateauin west-central Jordan. Architectural, faunal, and archaeobotanical evidence is presented from Khirbat al-Mudayna al-’Aliya, one of several communities that participated in an extensified settlement system onthe edge of the Wadi al-Mujib and its tributaries. Producers practiced agriculture and pastoralism in alow-intensity subsistence economy that supported a nucleated settlement of households. Faunal analysisdetermined goats were kept, and wild animals supplemented diets. Archaeobotanical analysis of charredplant remains from storage bins in a building destroyed byfire indicated that barley was stored in a semi-processed state and that harvesting by uprooting was practiced, thus resulting in the maximization of thestraw harvest. The riparian zone beneath the settlement was a key venue for subsistence activities. ThisEarly Iron Age example contrasts with later episodes of extensification whose settlement systems weremore dispersed and agro-pastoralist regime more integrated.

Cover page of Face-to-Face with the Past: Reconstructing a Teenage Boy from Early Dilmun

Face-to-Face with the Past: Reconstructing a Teenage Boy from Early Dilmun

(2012)

Since 2008, the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project has analyzed the human skeletal remains and artifacts that Peter B. Cornwall excavated from Bahrain in the 1940s, now held in the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. One mode of interpretation and dissemination pursued by the DBP team is forensic facial reconstruction. The subject of the first reconstruction is a twelve- to fifteen-year-old male who lived during the Early Dilmun period (ca. 2050–1800 b.c.e.). The resulting sculpture incorporates skeletal data about his identity and health as well as visual cues grounded in archaeological and sociohistorical contexts. It will be one of two reconstructions at the center of a traveling museum exhibition beginning in 2013. The goal of the exhibition is to present members of past societies to the interested public in a tangible fashion that encourages empathy and an appreciation of our shared humanity.

Cover page of The Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project: A First Look at the Peter B. Cornwall Collection at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

The Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project: A First Look at the Peter B. Cornwall Collection at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

(2012)

This article presents an overview of the Peter B. Cornwall collection in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Cornwall conducted an archaeological survey and excavation project in eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in 1940 and 1941. At least twenty‐four burial features were excavated in Bahrain from five different tumuli fields, and surface survey and artefact collection took place on at least sixteen sites in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The skeletal evidence, objects and faunal remains were subsequently accessioned by the Hearst Museum. The authors recently formed the Dilmun Bioarchaeology Project to investigate this collection. This article provides background information on Cornwall’s expedition and an overview of the collection. Additionally, skeletal evidence and associated objects from two tumuli in Bahrain, D1 and G20, are presented to illustrate the collection’s potential contribution. Although the tumuli’s precise locations cannot be determined, associated objects help assign relative dates to these interments at the beginning of the second millennium BCE, the Early Dilmun Period.

Cover page of Feeding the Community: Objects, Scarcity and Commensality in the Early Iron Age Southern Levant

Feeding the Community: Objects, Scarcity and Commensality in the Early Iron Age Southern Levant

(2011)

History and ethnicity have been the preferred frameworks for explaining how Levantine societies organized themselves during the early Iron Age. Consequently, opportunities are missed to understand how local economic and environmental factors structured social life. In this study, a collection of early Iron Age settlements from southwest central Jordan, the Dhiban and Karak Plateaus, is examined using a community perspective. Emphasis is placed on the production and consumption of food, the raw materials for household and communal wealth. The value of food in the communities was heightened due to the difficult semi-arid environmental conditions in which is was produced. The sharing of food between households and communities was one way to create social bonds, or to gain power over others. Food circulation through practices such as storage, everyday meals and feasts therefore offers an ideal window through which to observe social life. Evidence for the communities' food-systems is considered (faunal and palaeobotanical data, storage and food production). The presence and uneven distribution of this evidence within individual communities indicates that households possessed different amounts of food, signalling a degree of inequality between households. A collection of decorated ceramic food-serving vessels is also discussed along with information about its production, its semiotic qualities and the possible roles it played in commensal events. One broader implication of this study is that materials were entangled in the networks of relationships that constituted early Iron Age social life. This recognition of the material world's participation challenges normative ways that early Iron Age societies have been analyzed and represented.