Israelite highland settlement

Israelite highland settlement

Since the 1970s a number of archaeological field surveys have been undertaken in Israel. As a result, it has been determined that there was a large increase in the settled population of the highlands north of Jerusalem, and the increase has been dated to around 1200 B.C. The increase in the number of villages is striking, about an eight-fold increase, representing a three-fold increase in the settled population. These villages continue in existence without a break forward in time until they are undoubtedly Israelite villages, and as a result of this Israel Finkelstein has proposed that the name Israelite may be applied to these villages from the time of settlement.

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.

See also


  • Dever, William G. (2003). Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0975-8.
  • Finkelstein, Israel, and Neil Asher Silberman (2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86913-6.
  • Miller, Robert D., II, (2005). Chieftains Of The Highland Clans: A History Of Israel In The Twelfth And Eleventh Centuries B.C.. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0988-X.
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