Friday 19 February 2010

Assaf Yasur-Landau
University of Haifa

Missing Rulers and Palaces without palatial economy in Canaan: New Evidence for the role of Aegean Art in Near Eastern Palaces
Tel Kabri is a 32 hectare site located in western Galilee. During the Middle Bronze Age, it was the centre of a Middle Bronze Age polity.  
Earlier excavations conducted at the site by Aharon Kempinski and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier (1986-1993) had revealed the remains of a palace dating to the Middle Bronze II period (ca. 1700-1550 BCE).  Within the palace, Kempinski and Niemeier discovered an Aegean-style painted plaster floor and several thousand fragments originally from a miniature Aegean-style wall fresco. Kabri is one of only four sites in the Eastern Mediterranean to have such Bronze Age Aegean-style paintings and may well be the earliest.
A new project co-directed by Eric H. Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau began at the site in 2003.   A geophysical survey in 2003, and our exploratory excavation season in 2005, enabled us to establish that the MB II palace at Tel Kabri is nearly twice as large as previously thought, probably 3,000-4,000 sq. m. rather than 2,000 sq. m. in area. The 2006 and 2007 seasons were spent conducting a regional archaeological survey of MB I and MB II settlements throughout western Galilee. It enabled us to reconstruct shifting settlement patterns, demography, and aspects of trade in the Kabri hinterland from its rise in MB I to its demise at the end of the MB II.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons of excavation within the Kabri palace have yielded important information regarding the rise of Canaanite rulership at the site and its connections to the Aegean. Rich deposits of pottery, and a series of floors excavated in area DW, have revealed that the palace was first built during MB I, some 200 years earlier then previously thought. Furthermore, deposits of wall plaster, some of it painted, have been found in clear stratigraphic contexts in both area DW and DS, enabling a revision of the date of the appearance of Aegean style art at the site. Some of the pieces, painted in black, yellow, red and bright blue, may well belong to a figurative fresco.
The finds from Kabri indicate that the palace was far from being a typical Near Eastern Palace. The absence of any evidence for administration, storage, or indeed any other manifestation of a palatial economy seems curious. Furthermore, the sole use of Aegean art and the absence of any evidence for Canaanite or Syrian art in the palace challenge common perceptions about the political role of art in Canaanite rulership.   This seminar will therefore put the finds from Kabri into the context of the nature of Canaanite rulership, the lack of clear Canaanite royal imagery before the Late Bronze Age, and the lack of a palatial economy in Canaan, all in comparison to contemporary patterns of Minoan palatial economy and rulership.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...