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Abstract

The Early Iron Age Southern Levant was a place in transition. The various Late Bronze Age city-states were collapsing and the New Kingdom Egyptian empire, part of a Mediterranean world rich in interactions, was dwindling to a close. Populations were shifting and a number of small, agro-pastoral villages were emerging in the highlands and plateaus on either side of the Jordan River. This dissertation studies one such village, Tall al-'Umayri, located on the Central Plateau of Transjordan. Excavations uncovered a portion of this 1.5-hectare village, including five domestic structures, a deep refuse pit, and an impressive fortification system. Around 1200 BCE an intense conflagration consumed the settlement and sealed houses, domestic artifacts, and even some of the inhabitants under burned mudbrick. The well-preserved assemblage provides a wealth of information on life before the destruction. To build a picture of that life, this study uses the functional-ecological approach to reconstruct the inhabitants' activities and the identity-practice approach to explore the social importance of those activities. The independent village at 'Umayri had well-defined architectural boundaries between households, which formed self-sustaining units for production of everyday necessities like food and clothing, as well as other items, such as seals. At the community level, socioeconomic inequality is evident in the range of sizes and complexity of the domestic structures and the presence of certain artifacts, such as administrative and ritual items, only in the larger houses. Compared to some other settlements in the region, 'Umayri was more organized and cooperative, as evidenced by the fortification system and the shared walls between houses. The inhabitants would also have needed to cooperate to reduce agricultural and pastoral risks, and they participated in community ritual. Such cooperation may have helped build solidarity. Interestingly, 'Umayri and the other settlements in the region that demonstrated cooperation through fortification systems simultaneously have evidence of individual households making greater efforts to protect or hide their grain stores from other households. Contextualizing and comparing these household and community practices with contemporary sites elsewhere in the Southern Levant thus allows for a discussion of the active ways in which villagers organized their societies and economies. This study is an important contribution to understanding the Early Iron Age Southern Levant, and Transjordan in particular, where little is known about everyday life at the village level. Rural settlements like 'Umayri provide windows of opportunity in which to analyze households, communities, and the development of social identity across the region.

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