The Middle Bronze Age of the Levant


The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant

Generally speaking, ceramic manufacture in western Syria during the early 2nd millennium BCE is of a significantly coarser character and technologically less-demanding level than that of the late 3rd millennium BCE. A marked contraction in the reportoire of total shapes, decreased levels of decoration and ever increasing uniformity

Broadly the same traits are found in ceramic assemblages throughout the entire Levant in the Middle Bronze I period, indicating that the material culture in both Syria and Palestine was remarkably homogeneous, in this respect at least. Most characteristic in regard to pottery shapes is the high frequency of carination, particularly in flat-based bowls and goblets. Flat or overhanging (“lipped”) rims – often grooved on top – are typical for larger open or slightly restricted vessels, whilst jugs tend to have tall necks, again with grooved rims. Larger vessels are frequently decorated with horizontal or undulating comb-incised designs (or a combination of the two) on their shoulder or upper body.

Syro-Cilician Painted Ware represents a common and widespread pottery type in the the areas both around and south of Aleppo, in the Amuq Plain and extending up into Cilicia. It consists of sharply carinated bowls, trefoil-mouthed jugs and footed bowls whose shoulders and upper bodies are decorated with painted animal, plant and geometric motives bordered by horizonantal bands divided into metopes.

Farther south, Ebla and its environs also produce another pottery type known as Common Painted Ware, marked out by painted horizontal bands and cross-hatched triangles on globular juglets and trefoil-mouthed pitchers with twisted handles.

Both Syro-Cilician Ware and Common Painted Ware are to be distinguished from the bichrome ware prevailing in MBI southern Syria, Palestine and the adjacent coastal regions (Levantine Painted Ware – Tubb).


NB: Journal, serial and monograph abbreviations may be consulted on the Abbreviations page.

Albright, William F.

1932 The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim in Palestine I: The Pottery of the First Three Campaigns, [AASOR 12], New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932.

1933 The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim IA: The Bronze Age Pottery of the Fourth Campaign, [AASOR 13], New Haven: Yale University Press, 1933.

Anbar, M. & Naʾaman, N.

1986-1987 “An Account Tablet of Sheep from Ancient Hebron”, TA 13-14 (1986-1987), pp.3-12.

Bienkowski, Piotr

1989 “The Division of the MBIIB-C in Palestine”, Levant 21 (1989), pp.169-179.

Bietak, Manfred

1991 “Egypt and Canaan in the Middle Bronze Age”, BASOR 281 (1991), pp.27-72.

Biran, A.

1984 “The Triple-Arched Gate of Laish at Tel Dan”, IEJ 34 (1984), pp.1-19.

Broshi, M. & Gophna, Ram

1986 “Middle Bronze Age II Palestine, its Settlement and Population”, BASOR 261 (1986), pp.73-90.

Bunimovitz, Shlomo

1992 “The Middle Bronze Age Fortifications in Palestine as a Social Phenomenon”, TA 19 (1992), pp.221-234.

Cole, D.P.

1984 Shechem I – the Middle Bronze IIB Pottery, Winona Lake: ASOR, 1984.

Collon, Dominique

1975 The Seal Impressions from Tell Atchana / Alalakh, [AOAT 27], Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1975.

1981 “The Aleppo Workshop”, UF 13 (1981), pp.33-43.

1987 First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East, London: British Museum Press / Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Cooper, E.

1998 “The EB-MB Transitional Period at Tell Kabir, Syria”, in Fortin, M. & Aurenche, O. (eds), Espace naturel, espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10e – 2e millénaires av. J.-C.), Lyons: Maison de l’Orient, 1998, pp.271-280 [= Bulletin of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 33].

Dever, William G.

1987 “Archaeological Sources for the History of Palestine – The Middle Bronze Age: the Zenith of the Urban Canaanite Era”, BA 50 (1987), pp.148-177.

Epstein, Clare

1966 Palestinian Bichrome Pottery, Leiden: Brill, 1966.

Gal, Zvi

1991 “A Note on the Settlement Pattern of the MB II Jezreel and Beth Shan Valleys”, BASOR 284 (1991), pp.29-32.

Gerstenblith, Patricia

1980 “A Reassessment of the Beginning of the Middle Bronze Age in Syria-Palestine”, BASOR 237 (1980), pp.65-84.

1983 The Levant at the Beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, [ASOR Dissertation Series 5], Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1983.

Gophna, Ram

1984 “The Settlement Landscape of Palestine in the Early Bronze Age II-III and Middle Bronze Age II”, IEJ 34 (1984), pp.20-31.

Heinz, Marlies

1992 Tell Atchana / Alalakh: die Schichten VII – XVII, [AOAT 41], Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1992.

Hoffmeier, James K.

1989 “Reconsidering Egypt’s Part in the Termination of the Middle Bronze Age in Palestine”, Levant 21 (1989), pp.181-193.

Ilan, David

1995 “The Dawn of Internationalism – the Middle Bronze Age”, chapter 18 in Levy, T.E. (ed.), The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, New York: Facts on File, 1995, pp.297-319.

Kempinski, Aharon

1983 Syrien und Palästina (Kanaan) in der letzten Phase der Mittelbronze IIB-Zeit (1650-1570 v.Chr), [AAT 4], Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1983.

1992a “Urbanization and Town Plans in the Middle Bronze Age II”, in Kempinski, A. & Reich, R. (eds), The Architecture of Ancient Israel, Jerusalem: IES, 1992, pp.121-126.

1992b “Middle and Late Bronze Age Fortifications”, in Kempinski, A. & Reich, R. (eds), The Architecture of Ancient Israel, Jerusalem: IES, 1992, pp.127-142.

1992c “Dan and Kabri – A Note on the Planning of Two Cities”, Eretz Israel 23 (1992), pp.76-81.

1992d “The Middle Bronze Age”, in Ben-Tor, A. (ed.), The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, New Haven: Yale University Press and the Open University, 1992, pp.159-210.

Kenyon, Kathleen M.

1966 Amorites and Canaanites, London: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Kislev, M., Artzy, M. & Marcus, E.

1993 “Import of an Aegean Food Plant to a Middle Bronze Age IIA Coastal Site in Israel”, Levant 25 (1993), pp.145-154.

Marchetti, N. & Nigro, L.

1997 “Cultic Activities in the Sacred Area of Ishtar at Ebla during the Old Syrian Period: the Favissae F.5237 and F.5328″, JCS 49 (1997), pp.1-44.

Matthiae, Paolo

1981 Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, New York: Doubleday, 1981.

1984 “New Discoveries at Ebla: the Excavation of the Western Palace and the Royal Necropolis of the Amorite Period”, BA 47 (1984), pp.18-32.

1990 “A Class of Old Syrian Bronze Statuettes and the Sanctuary B2 at Ebla”, in Matthiae, P. et alii (eds), Resurrecting the Past: A Joint Tribute to Adnan Bounni, Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut, 1990, pp.345-362.

1997a “Ebla and Syria in the Middle Bronze Age”, in Oren, E. (ed.), The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, Philadelphia: University Museum, 1997, pp.379-414.

1997b “Typologies and Functions in the Palaces and Houses of Middle Bronze II Ebla”, in Castel, C., al-Maqdissi, M. & Villeneuve, F. (eds), Les maisons dans la Syrie antique du III millénaire aux débuts de l’Islam: pratique et representations de l’espace domestique, Beirut: IFAPO, 1997, pp.125-134.

1997c “Tell Mardikh 1977 – 1996: vingt ans de fouilles et de découvertes: la renaissance d’Ebla amorrhéenne”, Akkadica 101 (1997), pp.1-29.

Nigro, L.

1998 “Ebla and the Ceramic Provinces of Northern Syria in the Middle Bronze Age: Relationships and Interconnections with the Pottery Horizons of Upper Mesopotamia”, in Lebeau, M. (ed.), About Subartu: Studies Devoted to Upper Mesopotamia, [Subartu 4/1), Turnhout: Brepols, 1998, pp.271-304.

Novák, M. & Pfälzner, P.

2000 “Ausgrabungen in Tall Mishrife-Qatna 1999. Vorbericht der deutschen Komponente des internationalen Kooperationsprojektes”, MDOG 132 (2000), pp.253-296.

Oren, Eliezer

1971 “A Middle Bronze Age I Warrior Tomb at Beth-Shan”, ZDPV 87 (1971), pp.106-139.

Parr, Peter

1968 “The Origin of the Rampart Fortifications of Middle Bronze Age Palestine and Syria”, ZDPV 84 (1968), pp.18-45.

Philip, Graham

1988 “Hoards of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages in the Levant”, World Archaeology 20 (1988), pp.190-208.

1989 Metal Weapons of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages in Syria-Palestine, [BAR International Series 526], Oxford, 1989.

Sagona, Antony C.

1980 “Middle Bronze Faience Vessels from Palestine”, ZDPV 96 (1980), pp.101-120.

Streck, M.

2000 Das ammuritische Onomastikon der altbabylonischen Zeit, [AOAT 271/1], Münster: Ugarit Verlag, 2000.

Suleiman, A.

1984 “Excavations at Ansari-Aleppo for the Seasons 1973 – 1980, Early and Middle Bronze Ages”, Akkadica 40 (1984), pp.1-16.

Teissier, B.

1996 Egyptian Iconography on Syro-Palestinian Cylinder Seals of the Middle Bronze Age, Fribourg: University Press & Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996.

Tubb, Jonathon N.

1983 “The MBIIa Period in Palestine: Its Relationship with Syria and Its Origins”, Levant 15 (1983), pp.49-62.

Ussishkin, David

1989 “Notes on the Fortifications of the Middle Bronze Age II Period at Jericho and Shechem”, BASOR 276 (1989), pp.29-53.

Weinstein, James

1975 “Egyptian Relations with Palestine in the Middle Kingdom”, BASOR 217 (1975), pp.1-16.

Wooley, C. Leonard

1955 Alalakh: An Account of the Excavations at Tell Atchana in the Hatay, 1937-49, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955.

Wright, G.E.

1965 Shechem – the Biography of a Biblical City, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965.

Wright, G.R.H.

1968 “Tell el-Yehudiyeh and the Glacis”, ZDPV 84 (1968), pp.1-17.

Zevulun, U.

1990 “Tell el-Yahudiyah Juglets from a Potter’s Refuse Pit at Afula”, Eretz-Israel 21 (1990), pp.174-190.


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