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Early Bronze Age - 3500–2300 BC

In the second half of the 4th millennium BC, a radical transformation took place throughout the Ancient Near East. The first planned cities were built, and they rapidly developed into the first city-states. Urban culture flourished in the Land of Canaan for more than one thousand years, until various factors, such as climate change, led to the cities ’ collapse. For some three hundred years, the people of the Land returned to rural and semi-nomadic ways of life.

The early Bronze Age was the oldest period in which towns were built in Israel. Tel Arad, northwest of the modern city of Arad in the northern Negev, consists of a lower and an upper city. The lower city was inhabited only in the Early Bronze Age (3150?-2200 BC). At approximately 100 dunams (25 acres) Arad was one of the largest cities of its day in this country, and surrounded by a strong 1,200-meter wall. The city's streets, plazas, and buildings were meticulously planned, including a reservoir in the lowest part of the city to which surface runoff was channeled.

It is customary to assume that in the Early Bronze Age II-III the socio-political landscape of the Land of Israel was characterized by a multitude of city-states, each of which ruled over the peripheral region adjacent to it. Following this concept, while at the same time relying on various geographic indicators, maps were drawn in the literature suggesting what the domains of the main cities were and what the extent of their control was. These studies are entirely theoretical and in fact there is no real evidence from the archaeological information on the EBII-III as to how each city-state implemented its control over the periphery.

In the Early Bronze Age II, a period that lasted c. 300 years, the city of Arad maintained complex economic systems, the essence of which was a regional administration in the model of a center and periphery, until the sudden end of the city that abruptly cut short its development. At its height (Stratum II), Arad sustained 2000-2500 people. The existence of an urban center of this size in the southern region of the Land of Israel, on the border of the settled country, is both surprising and extraordinary.

The sites that were long referred to as the Golan ‘Enclosures’ were discovered during the emergency survey following the Six Day War. Leviah, Qetzar Bardawill, Sha’abaniyah and others were known in archaeological research as huge corrals for the sheep, goat and cattle of semi nomads that lived on the fringes of the populated country. These ‘enclosures’ were mainly situated at the ends of spurs overlooking the Sea of Galilee and were surrounded on three directions by precipitous slopes that provide natural protection. The side that was connected to the Golan Heights plateau was fortified with thick walls. The excavations of the Land of Geshur project at Leviah (1987-1997) and Gutman and Syon’s excavations at Gamla have clearly demonstrated that these are not ‘enclosures’ devoid of buildings, rather they are large permanent settlements in which there are buildings and installations. At Gamla the ancient settlement’s city wall was exposed below the city wall that dates to the time of the Second Temple and the remains of a monumental building from the Early Bronze Age II were also uncovered.

Archaeologists in Israel announced 06 October 2019 they had uncovered a 5,000-year-old city north of Tel Aviv. It was the largest Bronze Age urban area found in the region to date and could fundamentally change ideas of when sophisticated urbanization began taking place in the area. Israel's Antiquities Authority said that the city was discovered at the En Esur excavation site during road works near Harish, a town some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv. The archaeologists described the city as "cosmopolitan and planned." It covered 65 hectares (160 acres) and was home to about some 6,000 people, they added, which would have been a significant size for the era. This is the "New York of the early Bronze Age," the authority's statement read.

The Early Bronze Age ended around 2200 BC, when an acute climatic change brought about intense warming in the entire Mediterranean basin, completely destroying the advanced urban Canaanite civilisation, as well as the cultures of the Chaldeans and India’s Mohenjo-Daro. It ruined many settlements in Anatolia, Crete, Europe and even in faraway America. For some three hundred years, the people of the Land returned to rural and semi-nomadic ways of life. It was during this time that bronze was worked for the first time, giving its name to the period.

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Page last modified: 06-10-2019 18:44:42 ZULU