Middle Bronze 1 Fact Sheet

By Vern Crisler

Copyright, 2003, some updating….2009

Rough Draft 

Here are some of the things we should expect to find in the archaeological record if the Exodus and Conquest were anything like what the Bible says they were.  In order to limit the amount of referencing in this fact sheet, the following books have been selected as representative of archaeological thinking regarding the Middle Bronze Age 1 period.  In citing them, or other books in the text, only the author’s name and page number will be used. Capitalization will also be used for emphasis.

1)      W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Maryland, 1960

2)      Amnon Ben-Tor, ed., The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, Israel, 1992

3)      Kathleen M. Kenyon, Archaeology In the Holy Land, New York, 1960

4)      Thomas E. Levy, ed., The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, New York, 1995

5)      Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 B.C.E., New York, 1992

6)      Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Israel, 1993

It should be remembered that these scholars do not necessarily recognize the MB1 people as the Israelites.  All of them may have different views on who they could be, but at least from the  perspective of the Neo-Courville Interpretation, the objectivity of the following descriptions are enhanced thereby since they don’t reflect any apriori theory on their part in favor of the MB1 people as the Exodus Israelites.

The following is an initial sketch of the archaeological finds that are predicted by the model of the Neo-Courville Interpretation.  As such, these are only the starting points for future research, not the final word.  It is hoped that this fact sheet can be updated frequently as new finds or facts are discovered that can help elucidate the nature of the MB1 archaeological period.

1) NEW PEOPLE:

The Israelites weren’t recently native to the land of Palestine, but had been living in Egypt for two hundred years or more. Obviously, then, their entrance into the land of Palestine would have been the  introduction of a new people into the land in an unmistakable fashion. This is exactly what we find in the Middle Bronze 1 strata:

“Little or none of the town inside the walls [of Jericho] has survived subsequent denudation, but it was probably completely destroyed, for all the finds show that there was an absolute break, and that a NEW PEOPLE took the place of the earlier inhabitants.  Every town in Palestine that has so far been investigated shows the same break.” (Kenyon, p. 134.)

2) NEW POTTERY & SETTLEMENT:

“At most sites our evidence consists of the abrupt appearance of a NEW type of pottery” (Kenyon, p. 136.)

“The DIFFERENCES extend over a far wider field than merely that of pottery; in way of life, in architecture, in burial customs, in weapons, in social organization.” (Kenyon, p. 137).

“[M]any factors indicate that the rural settlement system of the Intermediate Bronze Age was UNRELATED, from its inception, to the urban system of the Early Bronze Age II-III.” (R. Gophna in Ben Tor, p. 137.)

3) INVASION:

“On this [pottery] evidence alone, therefore, it is safe to postulate an INVASION of a new group.” (Kenyon, p. 136.)

“Palestine thus received a great INVASION of nomadic groups in the last centuries of the second millennium [sic], which completely blotted out the preceding urban civilization of the Early Bronze Age.” (Kenyon, p, 159.)

“…Palestine was at that time in the throes of tribal UPHEAVAL, and there was much DESTRUCTION and abandonment of towns.” (Albright, p. 80.)

“[I]n contrast to the situation in inner Syria, important urban centers of the Syro-Lebanese coast such as Ras Shamra (Ugarit) and Byblos were UTTERLY DESTROYED, as were all the Early Bronze Age towns of the Land of Israel.” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, “The Intermediate Bronze Age,” p. 158.  Note that Gophna’s Intermediate Bronze Age is the same period as Albright’s MB1.)

4) JERICHO & AI:

“[T]he LATEST of the Early Bronze Age town walls at JERICHO was destroyed by FIRE. With this destruction, town life there came to an end for a space of several hundred [sic] years.  Newcomers, who were presumably the authors of the destruction, settled in considerable numbers in the area, but they did not build for themselves a walled town.  They spread all down the slopes of the mound and over a considerable part of the adjoining hillside [Gilgal?-VC]….” (Kenyon, p. 137.)

“An important site in the hill country…is that of ‘Ai, identified in the imposing remains known as Et Tell covering a hill some 10 miles north of Jerusalem….The site is of peculiar interest, since, according to the biblical account, ‘Ai was captured by Joshua after the fall of Jericho. The excavations showed, however, that the site was ABANDONED at the end of the Early Bronze Age, and was not reoccupied until well on in the Iron Age.” (Kenyon, p. 115.)

“These relics of the Middle Bronze I people seem to indicate a fresh migration into the town of a nomadic people who brought with them an entirely new tradition in pottery forms and new customs in burial practices. They may have come into Palestine from the desert at the CROSSING OF THE JORDAN near JERICHO and may then have pushed on to settle eventually at such places as Gibeon, Tell el-Ajjul, and Lachish, where tombs of this distinctive type have been found.” (James B. Pritchard, Gibeon: Where the Sun Stood Still, New Jersey, 1962, p. 153.)

5) NOMADIC (or SEMI-NOMADIC):

“The newcomers therefore were essentially NOMADS. They destroyed existing towns, but did not create their own [sic]. It is perhaps one of the clearest instances in the long history of  Palestine of the temporary triumph of the Desert over the Sown.” (Kenyon, p. 137.)

“In view of the general character of these newcomers to Palestine, especially their lack of interest in town life, the habit of the Pottery group in burying collections of disarticulated bones, which may suggest a NOMADIC background….” (Kenyon, p. 141.)

“[T]he individual and secondary burials conform with the nature of a SEMINOMADIC society in which the dead are brought to central cemeteries after primary burial elsewhere.” (Mazar, p. 159.)

“Another explanation offered for the ‘orphan’ cemeteries (those with no adjacent habitation site) views at least some of them as evidence of central burial grounds for SEMI-NOMADIC population groups that have left no architectural remains….” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 128.)

“Nelson Glueck’s explorations in Transjordan yield the same picture, that of a rapidly declining density of settlement, followed before the end of the twentieth [sic] century B.C. by virtually complete abandonment of the country to NOMADS.” (Albright, p. 82.)

“As a result of these surveys, Finkelstein…agrees by an large with my view that the Negev EB IV sites were indeed occupied by SEMI-NOMADIC pastoralists who migrated seasonally up into the Central Hills, camped there, and buried their dead in the many large cemeteries known in that region.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 282.)

“The evidence of the skeletal material and the poor offerings [at Jebel Qa’Aqir] suggest these were the remains of SEMINOMADIC groups of people, probably pastoralists who roamed a seasonal circuit and carried their dead with them for burial at an ancestral burying ground. The evidence of the Jericho tombs and many other Middle Bronze I cemeteries in the Hebron Hills points to the same conclusions.” (Stern, 2:666; Article by William Dever on Jebel Qa-Aqir.)

6) WARRIORS:

“The whole burial custom [of the Dagger-type tomb] is simple and austere, and the prominence given to weapons suggests a group of WARRIORS.” (Kenyon, p. 139.)

“In view of the general character of these newcomers to Palestine…, and the emphasis on weapons in the case of the Dagger group, which suggests that they were WARRIORS….” (Kenyon, p., 141.)

7) TRIBAL or FAMILIAL:

“Though the practice of single burials is so characteristic, the burial customs in other respects show many variations, and these variations are probably to be explained as evidence of a TRIBAL organisation, each group maintaining its own burial customs.” (Kenyon, p. 137.)

“[T]he most satisfactory explanation seems to be that the difference in burial customs is due to a TRIBAL organization.” (Kenyon, p. 141.)

“The concentrated cemeteries may represent tribal burial grounds….The very noticeable differences between the possessions and burial practices of all the groups described shows that though there were broad similarities there was no uniform culture in any way comparable with that of the preceding and succeeding periods, and that the groups remained separated and TRIBAL in organization.” (Kenyon, p. 158.)

The following are the tribes that Kenyon was able to discern:

  1. Dagger-type
  2. Pottery-type
  3. Square
  4. Shaft-type
  5. Outsize-type
  6. Bead-type

William Dever’s archaeological investigations of this period have increased the number of discernible tribes to seven. “Following repeated typological analyses, Dever proposed a regional subdivision of the pottery distributions on both sides of the Jordan River into SEVEN groups….” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 144.)

As archaeological analyses continues, I predict this will get up into the 10 or 12 range—Vern.

Note: See the paper “Wilderness and Conquest” to see how about 12 or 13 different tribal groups may have been identified.

“The EB IV/MB I Negev society appears to have been egalitarian and TRIBAL….” (Mazar, p. 158.)

“…Palestine was at that time in the throes of TRIBAL upheaval….” (Albright, p. 80.)

“Based on the lack of any monumental architecture or elite residences, as well as on the typical clustering of several round sleeping-shelters around a common courtyard, I concluded that at Be’er Resisim we are no doubt dealing with the partly-seasonal encampment of a small extended family or clan (a TRIBAL descent group or ‘section’, in the ethnographic literature)….” (Levy, article by William G. Dever, “Social Structure in the Early Bronze IV Period in Palestine,” p. 289.  Dever’s EB4 is the same period as Albright’s MB1.)

“The ‘TRIBAL’ model, however, is reasonably well suited to most of  Palestine in EV IV—certainly to the Negev-Central Hills area, and probably also to the Transjordanian plateau. Evidence supporting such a ‘tribal” model is well documented and would include…the likelihood that recognizable regional assemblages in the material culture reflect mobile, overlapping TRIBAL groups….” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 294.)

“The distinct differences between the cemeteries in the cutting of the tombs and in the grave goods…are further evidence of TRIBAL groups, some seminomadic.” (Stern, 2:666, article by William Dever on MB1 Jebel Qa’Aqir.)

8)   No LASTING CONQUEST of Transjordan (Edom, Moab) or MEGIDDO, etc.; overlap or gaps; Israelites could not drive out the Canaanites but put them under tribute. Note, see especially, Josh. 17:11-12.

 “There remains the problem of Megiddo. As the material is published, there appears to be an OVERLAP, with pottery of the Early Bronze, E.B.-M.B., and Middle Bronze [MB2a] appearing SIDE BY SIDE in Strata XVI, XV, XIV, and XIII. But I have shown [sic] that this is due to intrusive burials and other disturbances.” (Kenyon, pp. 155.)

“The LACK OF CORRELATION between the settlement history of the Land of Israel and of the Transjordanian plateau (as revealed by the archaeological evidence) in the Intermediate Bronze Age poses difficult questions to the archaeologist, as it implies that the settlement history of the late third millennium [sic] varied from one REGION to the next.” (Ben Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 138.)

“It is scarcely accidental that this [MB1] phase SCARCELY appears at all in the stratigraphic picture of Megiddo and Beth-shan….” (Albright, p. 82.)

9)  DIFFERENT CULTURE, customs, miscellaneous (use of twelve):

 “The DIFFERENCES extend over a far wider field than merely that of pottery; in way of life, in architecture, in burial customs, in weapons, in social organisation. These differences are illustrated particularly clearly at Jericho.” (Kenyon, p. 137.)

“It is evident, therefore, that the settlement pattern in western Palestine during EB IV/MB I was considerably DIFFERENT from that of the Early Bronze Age.” (Mazar, p. 154.)

“In 1980 it was possible to categorize most, if not all, the known EB IV settlement sites as reflecting a ‘pastoral nomadic’ society. We had, after all, no true towns, much less cities; very few sizeable villages, most of them not necessarily fully sedentary or sedentary year-round; scarcely a single published house of any kind, apart from huts and sleeping-shelters; no monumental architecture whatsoever….The contrast with the highly developed urban economy and society of Palestine in Early Bronze II-III…could hardly be more striking.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 289.)

“Virtually all the EB IV sites [in the central hill country] are small, unwalled villages—many of them one-period sites. As Finkelstein observes quite correctly, both the EB IV settlement type and pattern of distribution mark a ‘drastic change’ from the urban Early and Middle Bronze Age periods….” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 292.)

“The bamah [high place] is merely a rock cliff, jutting out above the Yeroham Basin. At the top of the cliff is a leveled area with TWELVE cupmarks of various sizes.” (Stern, Volume 4:1507; Article by Moshe Kochavi on Mount Yeroham.”

“SIX large stone cairns, strung out along the crest of the ridge, are located AT EACH END [6+6=12 – Vern] of the site.” (Stern, 2:666, article by William Dever on MB1 Jebel Qa’Aqir.)

From Dr. Anati’s Har Karkom website:

 “Near an inhabited site of the BAC [bronze age complex] period at the foot of the mountain, site HK 52, a group of TWELVE PILLARS were found in front of a stone platform.  When this monument was discovered, in 1983, it brought to our minds, for the first time, the hypothesis that there might be some connection between Har Karkom and the mythical Mount Sinai of the Bible.  This site recalls the passage referring to Moses in Exodus 24:4: “He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and put up TWELVE PILLARS, for the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Here an altar and twelve pillars are at the foot of the mountain, near the remains of a Bronze Age camping site.  We do not know whether this place was seen, interpreted, and described by ancient travellers, and obviously it cannot be affirmed that Moses built it, or even that such a man as Moses ever existed.  But the query arose, concerning the possible relation between this site and the biblical description.”  See:

http://www.harkarkom.com/

Dr. Anati’s Har Karkom is similar to Qa’Aqir in its use of two sixes to make a 12: “In the wadi west of the mountain are numerous structural remains from the Early Bronze and beginning of the Middle Bronze ages. The remains largely comprise extensive encampments, including more than five hundred foundations of huts and other structures. A structure with a foundation for a square bamah [high place] was found at the edge of one of the slopes. Next to the bamah were a DOZEN massebot [standing stone] (0.8 – 1.2m high) arranged in TWO ROWS OF SIX each.” (Stern, 4: 850.)

10) RELIGIOUS:

“[I]t may be suggested that in their care for the disposition of the dead the E.B.-M.B. people do everywhere show considerable concern for things SPIRITUAL.” (Kenyon, p. 157.)

“Most animals were IMMATURE (75 percent), with some (25 percent) young adults but no adults present. All the carcasses were missing the cranium and most of the bones were in partial articulation — both features indicating a deliberate SACRIFICE of an animal for interment with human remains.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 287.)

11) NEGEV Settlement:

“The settlement of the central Negev in the EB IV/MB I period is enigmatic. This area was almost uninhabited at times when an urban culture flourished in the rest of the country (such as in EB III, in the Middle and Late Bronze periods); but the region was heavily settled in EB IV/MB I—when in the fertile areas of Palestine there probably was no lack of land and pasture, and population was relatively sparse [sic]. This paradox is sharpened by paleoclimatic studies showing that after the end of EB III drier conditions prevailed. Current research indicates that the number of settlements and their size had been LARGER than we previously believed, but no satisfactory explanation of the phenomenon has been suggested.” (Mazar, p. 158.)

Note: It should be remembered that the Bible says the Israelites were living primarily on manna, not on agriculture.  See our paper “Wilderness & Conquest” for further discussion of Israelite culture during the Exodus as compared with the Middle Bronze 1 people—Vern

12) TOMBS:

“The vast EB IV/MB I cemeteries are a primary source in the study of this period. Three major types of burials are known, each typical of a different region: shaft tombs, known throughout western Palestine; megalithic dolmens covered by tumuli, known in the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee; and built-up tumuli, typical of the central Negev….[T]he individual and secondary burials conform with the nature of a SEMINOMADIC society….” (Mazar, p. 159.)

“Variations between cemeteries in close proximity may indicate either a chronological sequence or the possibility that related TRIBAL groups with somewhat different burial customs lives side by side.” (Mazar, p. 161.)

“Tumuli fields are found on summits of mountain ridges in the Negev and often are associated with settlement sites. High, overhanging locations were deliberately chosen for these tombs, so that many tumuli still protrude into the skyline in the central Negev. Tumuli are found also inside settlement sites, between houses. Many were found empty, as if they had been used for primary burial and the bones had later been removed for secondary interment elsewhere.” (Mazar, p. 161.)

“The megalithic dolmens found in the Golan and Galilee are tablelike structures composed of two or more vertical basalt blocks roofed by large rock slabs. A heap of stones usually covered the dolmens, creating a tumulus. Such structures are known in Transjordan from the Chalcolithic period, but in the Golan and Galilee they definitely date to EB IV/MB I. Dolmens generally served for the secondary interment of one person. These dolmens recall similar megalithic burial structures known throughout Europe in the Bronze Age, but the significance of this resemblance is still unclear.” (Mazar, p. 161.)

13) SKILLED METALLURGY (presence of Kenites):

“Narrow elongated copper ingots found at several sites in the south served perhaps as raw material for casting metal objects. These ingots, as well as the numerous well-made metal weapons and pins, show that specialized, SKILLED METALSMITHS operated in the country during this period.” (Mazar, p. 166)

“The abundance of metal artifacts is an outstanding characteristic of Intermediate Bronze Age culture in the land of Israel. Astonishing quantities of metal artifacts continue to be found….The comparative abundance of metal artifacts in the Intermediate Bronze Age and the ADVANCED technology evidenced in their manufacture are especially remarkable in view of the wretched appearance of most sites of this period.” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 147.)

“The fenestrated axes…[of the Intermediate Bronze Age] may be classed among the MOST COMPLEX metal artifacts ever designed in the ancient Near East.” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 151.)

“This bold hypothesis [of an invasion] was based on a similarity between the culture of the Indo-European nomads and the nomadic culture of the Intermediate Bronze Age in the Land of Israel, a similarity that extends even to such details as shaft and tumulus tombs and ADVANCED METALLURGY.” (Ben Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 157.)

14) EGYPTIAN indicia or pottery, & RED SEA SHELLS:

“Recently, however, Egyptian pottery has been identified among the finds of the North Sinai survey….The Egyptian sherds were FOUND TOGETHER with pottery typical of the Intermediate Bronze Age in Israel at 45 campsites of the period discovered during the survey.  The Egyptian sherds belong to a type of ware common in Egypt during the latter part of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period….” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, pp. 127-29.)

“Significantly, the ceramic repertoire [EB IV, or Albright’s MB1] also included late variants of the Egyptian ‘Maidum ware’ which is diagnostic of the late Old Kingdom-early First Intermediate Period.” (Stern, 4:1388; Article by Avraham Negev on Sinai.)

“Shells from the RED SEA have been discovered in habitation sites and tombs.” (Ben-Tor, article by Ram Gophna, p. 153.)

“Small finds were scarce, but the fact that so little was previously known of the Middle Bronze I domestic assemblage makes many of the objects unique. Among them were carved and polished shell pendants made from RED SEA conch shells brought from a distance of more than 150 km (93 mi.), a chalk geometric stamp, and an EGYPTIAN style limestone gaming board.” (Stern, 1:159; Article by William Dever on Be’er Resisim.)

“A curiosity is a fragment of a RED SEA shark’s jaw and teeth.” (Stern 1:159; Article by William Dever on Be’er Resisim.)

“Scattered on the floor made of small stones and beaten earth were typical MBI potsherds.  Beneath this floor-level, on the natural rock, we found sherds from the Early Bronze Age II in a thin ash layer, again a critical finding.  We found rooms like this, with minor variations, over and over again.  Between the units were open-air enclosures used principally for food preparation, as we know from the remains of cooking pots and animal bones, mostly sheep and goat.  Apart from pottery, the other artifacts included grinding stones (sometimes of Aswan granite), fragments of ostrich egg shells, RED SEA CONCHES (and the ornaments fashioned from them), ‘Canaanean’ blades and innumerable flint chips, and (in one building) a hoard of two copper ingots and a copper dagger.  Smaller individual buildings as well as cairns (stone piles) were excavated in the area.”  (Rudolph Cohen, “The Mysterious MBI People,” in Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug, 1983, Biblical Archaeology Society.)

 “The North Sinai Expedition explored more than 280 settlement sites between the Suez canal and Raphia, which were represented by identifiable Early Bronze IV-Middle Bronze I [Albright’s MB1] artifacts. Most of the sites are located in northeastern Sinai, although a few were identified south of the Bardawil lagoon to the fringe of the eastern Nile Delta.” (“Sinai”, in Stern, 4:1388)

According to the survey, these MB1 sites are located FROM THE SUEZ CANAL to Raphia.  Of course, if these are the Israelites, the MB1 sites that start at the Suez canal (i.e., the Red Sea) would go up to Mt. Karkom, then to the central Negev and Kadesh-barnea.  After the conquest, the second phase of MB1 would appear in various parts of the country, including in the Raphia region (near the Philistine coast).  If MB1 are the Israelites, then this gives us a clue as to where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, i.e., at the Suez Canal rather than the Bitter Lakes.  See our essay “Crossing the Red Sea” for more information on the likely route of the Israelites from Egypt.

15)  REGIONALISM (tribes settling down in different geographic regions):

“…virtually every commentator…still agrees with my original insistence on the distinctiveness and significance of ‘REGIONALISM’ in EB IV [i.e., MB1] Palestine overall.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 291.)

“Yet the evidence must be carefully assessed in each case, so as not to obscure what are still clearly REGIONAL assemblages with their own peculiarities, while at the same time placing these local groups in the larger cultural complex of Palestinian EB IV.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 293.)

“Evidence supporting such a ‘tribal’ model is well documented and would include: a dispersed pattern of non-urban settlement; a largely pastoral nomadic subsistence system and social structure (as at Be’er Resisim); and the likelihood that recognizable REGIONAL assemblages in the material culture reflect mobile, overlapping tribal groups as at Jericho, Jebel Qa’aqir, and many other sites.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 295.)

“Whatever model we may finally adopt for Palestinian EB IV, the overall phenomenon upon which all commentators must agree is that of ‘regionalism’, long recognized by most scholars. No other period in the archaeological history of Palestine exhibits such strongly marked, predictable REGIONAL assemblages or ‘families’.” (Levy, article by Dever, p. 295.)

16) MANNA VS. AGRICULTURE:

“Several grasses suitable for grazing were present, but despite the discovery of grinding stones in the houses FEW GRAINS were in evidence.” (Stern, 1:159, article by Dever on Be’er Resisim.)

17) DIET (little if any pig bones):

“The animal bones, almost all from a few communal outdoor cooking areas, consist of more than 90 percent sheep and goat, the latter predominant and of the small black variety herded by modern Negev Bedouin. Also represented were desert gazelle, hares, and birds, along with a few cattle (bos), donkey, and even camel bones.”  (Stern, 1:159, article by Dever on Be’er Resisim.)

“Remains from the Middle Bronze Age I settlement [of Sha’ar Ha-Golan] were exposed….Analysis of the animal bones revealed that the inhabitants raised sheep but also hunted.” (Stern, 4:1343, article by Emanuel Eisenberg on Sha’ar Ha-Golan.)

“Between the units were open-air enclosures used principally for food preparation, as we know from the remains of cooking pots and animal bones, mostly sheep and goat.” (Rudolph Cohen, “The Mysterious MBI People,” in Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug, 1983, Biblical Archaeology Society.)

18) “NONE OF THESE DISEASES”:

“The typical tomb [of MB1 Jebel Qa’Aqir] contained from two to four human burials and occasionally the headless carcass of a sheep or a goat. In every case the burials were secondary, and the bones, even those of the animals, were disarticulated and completely disarrayed….This population group was remarkably FREE of the DISEASES often associated with urban populations.” (Stern, 2:666, article by William Dever on Jebel Qa’Aqir.)

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