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Timing Cultural Change - Southern Levant Chronology

Timing Cultural Change - Southern Levant Chronology

This project is conducted under the Max Planck - Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology 


The Migration of Modern Humans

Boker Tachtit Excavations 2013Boker Tachtit Excavations 2014









The project involves the dating of the first arrival of modern humans out of Africa. This momentous event in human history occurred at the very end of the practical range for radiocarbon dating, and has proved to be extremely difficult to date. In a study of charcoal fragments from sediments from the Kebara Cave, just south of Haifa on the Carmel Mountain, the scientists have shown that modern humans reached this part of the world approximately 48,000 years ago. In fact, some of the dates obtained precede the arrival of modern humans, to just beyond 50,000 years – probably the oldest absolute radiocarbon dates ever obtained.


Chronology of the Early Bronze Age in the South Levant: New Analysis for a High Chronology

Regev J et al. 2012, Figure 11








The chronology of the Early Bronze Age (EBA) in the south Levant and the synchronization between the sites, taking into account both changes in material culture (seriation) and radiocarbon dates, show large inconsistencies and disagreements. In order to resolve this problem over the whole region, we assembled 420 radiocarbon dates. The dates have been reevaluated on the basis of their archaeological contexts and using analytical criteria. Bayesian theory was applied to model the selected dates in relation to the given seriation of the EBA sub-periods (EB I, II III, IV). Sites with two or more sequential sub-phases were individually modeled in order to define the transitions between the sub-periods. The new chronology indicates that the EB I-II transition occurred site-dependently between 3200-2900 BC, the  EB II-III ca. 2900 BC, and the EB III-IV ca. 2500 BC. 
The 14C dates and modeling demonstrate that the traditional dating of the divisions of the south Levantine Early Bronze Age should be revised. Taking into account that transitions from one EB sub-period to another did not necessarily occur simultaneously at all sites, the transitions between sub-periods should be considered as ranges, within which cultural changes interpreted as “transitions” occurred. This would question the synchronization between sites. A most significant outcome of this study is that a date around 2500 BC seems to be firmly based for the EB III end, which is at least 200 years earlier than the traditionally accepted dates. This will require a reevaluation of the cause for the end of this period of city states, which has often been ascribed to a major climate change that took place around 2300-2200 BC.

Click here for Johanna Regev's PhD thesis: "Chronology of the Early Bronze Age in the Southern Levant Based on 14C Dates in Relation to Context, Stratigraphy and Cultural Remains, Modeled with Bayesian Analysis"


Absolute Chronology for the Intermediate Bronze Culture in the Southern Levant

The Intermediate Bronze Age (IBA) in the second halve of the third millennium BC is an enigmatic period in the history of the southern Levant. The IBA distinct material culture was identified early in the 20th century. Hundreds of IBA sites were found since then in the southern Levant, and many of them were excavated by archaeologists. But there is still no consensus regarding fundamental details of this period:  IBA timeframe; the origin of IBA population; its relation to the preceding and following periods; and are there any internal developments, or chronological subdivisions within the IBA period.  These are part of the open questions still debated to date. Some radiocarbon based dates of samples obtained from IBA related phases of various sites do exist, but until now they did not provide a solid ground that is required in order to reach firm conclusions regarding the IBA timeframe. Recent studies set the end of the Early-Bronze urban culture at around 2500 BC, while the dawn of Middle-Bronze cities and related culture is considered by most scholars to be 2000/1950 BC. This gap between the EB end to the MB dawn sets a possible timeframe of around 500 years for the IBA culture to exist, as oppose to a previous consensus of 200 – 300 years, and so it draws much new attention on this intriguing period in the southern Levant. The research aim is to resolve IBA timeframe and other open questions utilizing exact science tools and methods. Radiocarbon dating will be a major tool used in this research, combined with other microarchaeological tools and methods. Main objective is to compose an absolute timeframe for the IBA culture in the Southern Levant by systematic dating and analysis of radiocarbon dates from various IBA sites, and to identify possible chronological and typological stages within the IBA.


Dating the Late Bronze to Iron Age Transition in Qubur El-Walaydah, Southern Levant: A Radiocarbon Study

The date of the Late Bronze (LB) to Iron Age (IA) transition in the Southern coastal Levant is the key for understanding the chronology of the entire eastern Mediterranean at the end of the second millennium BCE. The importance of the transition relates to the major change in political order over the entire eastern Mediterranean that occurred at that time.  At the end of Late Bronze Age, dominating political entities such as the Hittite and Egyptian Empires disappeared from the historical and archaeological records, and small political entities such as migrants known as “The Sea People”, appear. Within the Southern coastal Levant, these settlements are recognized mainly from the abundance of locally produced Mycenaean (Myc) IIIC and Bichrome pottery.
This important cultural change took place during a period in which the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere increased at a similar rate that the radiocarbon isotope decays (creating a so-called plateau in the calibration curve). Thus it is a real challenge to date this transition with reasonably high resolution. We applied a detailed microarchaeological approach to the site of Qubur el Walaydah, which has deposits that span this transition. This site is important as it was a rural countryside settlement of the Sea People in the Southern Levant. After carefully choosing the samples from well defined contexts in the field, and characterizing the samples in the laboratory, we dated 11 samples from 3 different locations within the site.  By incorporating stratigraphy and dates from secure contexts into a model, we want to achieve high precision dating  allowing to accurately date the transition and differentiate between two chaeological interpetations of the archaeological record for the transition in the Southern Levant.

Click here for Yotam Asscher's paper: "Absolute Dating of the Late Bronze to Iron Age Transition and the Appearance of Philistine Culture in Qubur el-Walaydah, Southern Levant"

Dangoor Education - the Exilarch Foundation opens in a new windowThe DANGOOR Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (D-REAMS) Laboratory was established by the Exilarch Foundation in November 2012.