Civilizations of Canaan
The Early Canaanite (Bronze) Age 3,500–2,300 BCE
The Early Canaanite (Bronze) Age (3,500–2,300 BCE) marks the beginning of urbanization. The museum excavated the most well preserved early Canaanite city in the Holy Land – Tel Arad in the northern Negev desert. Over most of its expanse, the 5,000-year-old remains were never built upon, resulting in a fine state of preservation and relatively easy recovery. The Museum’s Early Bronze Age gallery exhibits a plan of this radial-planned city surrounded by bastioned walls with fortified gates, together with a scale model depicting the typical Arad-style house compound with all its installations. No less fascinating are the remains of different foodstuffs from the Arad houses – grains, olive pits, dates, legumes and other edibles – allowing us to reconstruct the Canaanites’ eating habits. Planned cities such as Arad are now understood to indicate a hierarchical political system, perhaps organized into city-states or territories.
Imported vessels from Egypt and Sinai reveal that trade connections were widespread. Indeed, the finds indicate that in the initial phase of the Early Bronze Age, the southern coast of Canaan was colonized by Egyptians, most probably a means of tapping into Canaan’s olive oil and wine production – valued goods that could not be produced in Egypt due to its hot, arid climate. Among other items on display are inscribed serekhs (royal emblems) of the earliest known Egyptian kings, found at Arad, Tel Ereni and Nahal Besor. Other Early Canaanite (Bronze) Age exhibits include the cultic stele from Arad and a large hoard of sophisticated copper weapons found by chance at Kfar Monash.
Most of these cities from the 3rd millennium BCE were destroyed or abandoned. Theories abound, but what brought aboutt this collapse is unclear; perhaps the system became too complex and could no longer meet its social commitments. In several cases (Arad and Ai, for example) the old Early Bronze Age sites remained uninhabited until the Iron Age. In a fascinating turn of events, their ruins, according to some scholars, became associated with the biblical tradition of the conquest of Canaan by Joshua.