Civilizations of Canaan
The Middle Cannanite (Bronze) Age 2,000–1,550 BCE
The Middle Canaanite (Bronze) Age (2,000–1,550 BCE) – parallel to the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and the Old Babylonian period of King Hammurabi in Mesopotamia – saw the resurgence of city-states, whose main urban centers were surrounded by massive earthwork fortifications. Contrary to what such ramparts might be expected to reveal, destruction layers are conspicuously lacking in archaeological strata until the last century of this era. The impression is generally one of peaceful coexistence. Commerce – with Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Aegean region – thrived as never before; this was truly a period of internationalism.
The Middle Canaanite (Bronze) Age is represented in the Museum by exhibits such as a model of the strikingly intact arched mud brick city-gate and paved street at Tel Dan. The pottery of this period is among the most beautiful ever made; the full potential of the potter’s fast wheel was realized and the results are often unequalled in their technique and aesthetic sense. Zoomorphic (animal-shaped) and anthropomorphic (human-shaped) vessels are fairly frequent finds from this period, though each is marked by an individual touch. Scarab and cylinder seals, inspired by and sometimes imported from Egypt and Mesopotamia respectively, recur frequently and help date the archaeological contexts. Written material makes its first appearance at this time in the form of Egyptian hieroglyphs on scarab seals and statuettes, and cuneiform tablets in Akkadian from Hazor, Shechem, Ta’anach, Gezer, and Hebron. Essentially, this is the first truly historical period in Canaan.
The Middle Canaanite (Bronze) Age also came to an end under mysterious circumstances. Some scholars suggest that an internal social and political implosion was responsible. Others point to Egypt, which ejected Canaanite rulers known as the Hyksos from their capital in the Nile delta and then besieged them in southern Canaan at Sharuhen. Still others infer that a Hurrian warrior class from north Syria migrated to Canaan and brought with them turmoil and conquest. A combination of these factors may have been the cause.