We can't tell from this sudden settlement of Israel whether the Israelites came by conquest, or even if they came from anywhere; the new villages may instead represent former nomads or displaced persons settling down.
In the surrounding lowland areas, this increase in villages did not occur, and there are some archaeological grounds for calling the towns in these areas either Canaanite or Sea People. A 2005 book by Robert D. Miller II, applies statistical modeling to the sizes and locations of the villages, to determine the grouping of villages into economic and political entities. He finds highland groupings centered on Dothan, Tirzah, Shechem, and Shiloh. Benjamin's tribal territory is not organized around any main town.
This survey evidence does not particularly clarify the debate over whether there was a conquest as described in the Book of Joshua. But there is a list of Canaanite towns not taken, in Judges 1:27-35, which begins: "Nor did Manesseh drive out Bet Shean and her daughter-villages ..."; other towns not taken in the central zone are Taanach, Ibleam, Meggido, Dor, Gezer, Aijalon, Shaalbim, and Jerusalem. If we read a town's "daughter villages" to mean all the villages closer to that town than to any other town, this represents a lot of land; almost all the fertile lowlands. This list corresponds to the survey results with remarkable accuracy.