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Jewry: Fake and truth in the Old Testament (OT) according to documents and excavations

New identity by new Jewish history by help of chronology and archaeological research

3. Cycles of shepherd nomads and settling down in oval villages according to reality of archeology

Tents of Bedouins in 1915
vergrössern  Tents of Bedouins in 1915

by Michael Palomino (2006 / 2010)



from: Israel Finkelstein / Neil A. Silberman: The Bible unearthed. Archeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts; The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2001; German edition has got the title "No trombones before Jericho" (orig. German: "Keine Posaunen vor Jericho"): edition C.H.Beck oHG, Munich 2002;

Here in this analysis is used the German version "Keine Posaunen vor Jericho" of DTV, Munich 2004, second edition of 2005. All page indications refer to the German version. I hope the page numbers are not very different.

The oval principle of villages coming from the tent camps of the Bedouins

Tents of Bedouins in 1915
vergrössern  Tents of Bedouins in 1915
Bedouins: rest in an oval order
 vergrössern Bedouins: rest in an oval order

According to the archaeologists the first villages in the interval period between Middle and Mid East have the form of an oval ring. The houses touch each other, and the big inner courtyard seems having been a protection from thieves for the herds of animals in the night (p.127). Archaeologists can find only a few silos, few blades of sickles, and only few grindstones for corn cultivation (p.127-128).

Villages in an oval order also exist in the mountains of the Westbank and in the South of the Negev mountains. So, such villages not at all were a single case (p.128), but oval order of villages had a tradition in the whole Middle East and can be found in all epochs:
-- in Sinai
-- in Jordan
-- in other regions of Middle East (p.128).

This oval order of villages is typical for villages in the mountains in regions bordering to deserts. The construction in an oval form is similar to the tent camps of the Bedouins placing their tents in an oval until today, with an open courtyard. Also the dimension and the number of unities between oval construction of villages and the tent camps of the Bedouins is a similar one (p.128).

Finkelstein / Silverman come to the conclusion that the oval villages probably were built by shepherds when they needed a period of settling down when keeping the herd in a protected courtyard during the night had prior priority (p.129).

Development from the oval tent camp to the oval village of stones

-- the shepherd nomads had to give up their nomadic life at the eastern border of the region, not far away from the desert
-- the shepherd nomads hat to give up a part of their animals and had to cultivate the land with agriculture
-- this change is going on yet with the Bedouins of today, and the first built settlement is always in an oval form
-- the position at the border of the desert partly permits herds of animals and agriculture at the same time (p.120).

Archeology can state a repeating rhythm in Canaan

The excavations of many villages let detect a cycles between settling down and nomad life (p.130):

The cycles between oval construction of villages and nomadism in Canaan at the margin of the desert
Epoch Date Main characteristics
Early Bronze Age 3500-2200 B.C. appr. first wave of settlement, with proofs for about 100 villages
Interim period
2200-2000 B.C. crises, most of the villages are given up
Middle Bronze Age
2000-1550 B.C. appr. second wave of settlement, with proofs for about 220 villages
Late Bronze Age
1550-1150 B.C. crises, proofs for only about 25 villages
Iron Age I 1150-900 B.C. appr. third wave of settlement, with proofs for about 250 villages
Iron Age II 900-586 B.C. the settlements are rising up to more than 500 villages (8th century B.C.)

(Finkelstein / Silberman: Posaunen 2001, edition 2004, p.130)

Facts of archeology about the early oval villages

-- the culture of the villages of the different epochs is not very different (p.131)
-- the culture in the villages consists of agriculture with a plow with a cattle before, according to the environment conditions and the economic conditions, what can be seen with the bones of the animals (p.132)
-- there is always cultivation of olives and vineyards [according findings of seed and tools]
-- findings say that the wine is exported even to Egypt: In Egypt pottery vessels with clay from the Canaanite highlands are found, one time even with a seed of a grape in it (p.131).

Times with empty villages
When the villages are empty again, the population have changed to be Bedouins again. Agriculture with cattle and plow hardly exists in these times, but there exist above all herds of sheep and goats. Cattle herds do not exist because they are not enough movable in the crises years (p.133).

The reasons for the cycles
The change between nomadism and sedentarism with it's oval villages is provoked by political, economic, or climatic reasons. Bedouins are converting into village settlers, or villages settlers take their flight from new taxes to the desert to nomadism (p.133). When the political situation is safe the Bedouins settle down building villages, and when the situation is dangerous the village inhabitants convert into Bedouins so they are left alone (p.133-134).

The last period of settlement with building of villages is connected with a forming of identity which is called in certain regions "Israel" (p.131).

[But in the Bible there is not one single indication of this cycles...]

Structure of the village population

The village population is parted into two parts:
-- one part is specialized in agriculture
-- another part is keeping on big herds [as half nomads] (p.134).

In this system there is a mutual dependency of farmers and shepherd nomads:
-- the monads are dependent on agriculture products from the villages: nutrition supplement with corn is important for life, or the Bedouins had to cultivate corn themselves
-- and the village population gets the meat from the nomads, and milk and skins, but this is not important for life (p.134).

Natural separation of northern and southern region as precursors for a North Reich Israel and a South Reich Judah

Every wave of settlement creates two different societies in Mid East with two different areas of settlement in the North and in the South, dependent from the topographic conditions. The border line of these two types of settlement areas correspond more or less to the territories of the later invented kingdoms of the North (Israel) and South (Judah) in OT (p.171).

Northern region of settlement
Northern region: soft hills in
                            Jezreel plain
Northern region: soft hills in Jezreel plain
Southern region of settlement
Southern region: Dead Sea with steep
Southern region: Dead Sea with steep coast
Early Bronze Age
-- one place is the center of the government with a religious center Tell el-Far'a, with a big spring of fresh water, later known in the Bible as Thirza, which is said having been the first capital of the North Reich (p.172)
Early Bronze Age
-- the territory mainly is not very populated, the population are shepherds of sheep and by farmers (p.12)
-- up to 8th century B.C. Judah is very isolated and only has little population, and reading and writing are hardly distributed (p.56)
-- the region stays with only little population, for example the places only have potsherds without buildings indicating that these were places for shepherds, all in all the territory is about 50 ha in these times (p.172)
Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.)
-- the landscape has a dense population with settled down farmers (p.172)
Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.)
-- populated villages are rare
-- there is a big number of shepherd groups with cemeteries offside the populated villages
-- second center becomes Hebron which is also well fortified and has got great temples (excavation site is Tell Balata) (p.172)
Iron Age I in the North (1150-900 B.C. appr.)
-- there is a great wealth and military power
-- reading and writing are well spread (p.56)
-- there is a dense population in big, middle and little settlements (p.172)
Iron Age I in the South (1150-900 B.C. appr.)

[slow development]
Iron Age II in the North

-- reading and writing are widespread, also bureaucracy and administration, a professional army, wealth and luxury, specialized industries (p.233)
-- there come provocations against Assyria and then ruin by the Assyrian occupation 720 B.C.
Iron Age II in the South

-- Arab trade with the camel caravans from southern Arabia is coming with trade of spices and incense, that is a significant economic factor for the kingdom of Judah since 8th / 7th century B.C. (p.53)
-- after the destruction of the North Reich Judah is developing impressive fortresses and monumental temples and governments (p.172).

Finkelstein / Silberman: Posaunen 2001, edition of 2004

Documents from abroad about Israel Palestine during Mid Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C. appr.)

19th century B.C.
Inscription about the Egypt military campaign under leadership of Khu-Sebek - mentioning of a center Shechem
There is an inscription which archaeologists are dating in the time of Pharaoh Sesostris III (1878-1843 B.C.). This inscription describes an Egypt military campaign under Khu-Sebek up to the highlands of Canaan, Egypt name is "Retenu". The land Shechem is mentioned which is mentioned in an equal manner like "Retenu". So, Shechem in these times has having been a significant Jewish center in these times already (p.173).

There is no other information in Egypt Pharaoh's inscriptions about Canaan (p.173).

16th century B.C.
Facts of archeology indicate: The agricultural sector has impoverished
Latest investigations indicate that the agricultural sector has impoverished in 16th century B.C. already (p.120).

Data from abroad in the Late Bronze Age (1550-1150 B.C.)

The documents say: There was a geographic split between northern and southern states
In these times Canaan is often mentioned in Egypt texts, for example in the letters of Tell el-Amarna (14th century B.C.) (p.173). In these letters already is stated the partition of the highlands of the West Bank in two city states respectively in two separated territorial areas Shechem and Jerusalem with 2,590 km2 each,

-- with king Abdi-Hepa in Jerusalem (stands in the Bible always for "South Reich Judah")
-- with king Labaya in Shechem (stands in the Bible always for "North Reich Israel") (p.173).

Within the split city states of Canaan Jerusalem and Shechem are the biggest statal unities in the Late Bronze Age, but the populations are less than the dense populations in the little city states of the coastal plain (p.173).

The conditions for the development of the city states of Jerusalem and Shechem
Geographic conditions are very different for the city states Shechem in the North and for Jerusalem in the South. Bible claims later in OT a political "split", but this split always had been in an natural way and never was executed politically (p.175).

Development of the city state of Shechem (in the Bible "Israel")
Development of the city state of Jerusalem (in the Bible "Judah")
- there are no big differences of altitude on the way to the East, transports and communication to the East are easily possible
- the area of Shechem partly consists of fertile farmland which is enough for the own nutrition
- in the plains cultivation of corn is possible, in the highlands is possible the cultivation of olives and wine
-- by the favorable transport channels and the own nutrition the North Reich has got a great economic potential (p.175)
- on the way to the East there are big differences of altitude, and the Dead Sea has to be crossed, and all this makes transports and communication to the East very difficult resp. practically impossible
- the territory of the city state of Jerusalem consists of dry and cliffy desert steps, and by this an own nutrition with agriculture is hardly possible
- by these bad conditions the economic potential of the city state of Jerusalem is very little (p.175)
- Shechem has great resources
- the sloped to the West are not very steep and stony, so terrace agriculture with olive trees and vines is well possible (p.176)
- Jerusalem hardly has resources
- the slopes are very steep and stony, so terrace agriculture with olives and vines is hardly possible (p.176)
-> with the possibilities of transports between the city state of Shechem and his neighbors are created markets, exchange of products, commerce e.g. with corn, animal products, and there are exports down up to Egypt to the coastal markets
-> city state of Shechem can develop a specialized economy (p.176)
-> northern highlands are populated from the West in early times (p.177).
-> city state of Jerusalem remains without possibility of transport and without agriculture
-> city state of Jerusalem develops only little markets and no exchange of products
-> the society in the city state of Jerusalem stays monotonous, poor and has only little growth of population (p.176)
-> southern highlands are populated from the West only late (p.177).

Finkelstein / Silberman: Posaunen 2001, edition 2004

The distinction in a northern and a southern state is happening by natural reasons. There is no proof of a political split in the documents or indicated by findings. The South is never a leading power against the North as it is claimed later in OT with the invented kings David and Solomon for Jerusalem (p.176).

[South Reich Judah with Jerusalem only develops it's power when the North Reich Israel is destroyed from the outside].

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Photo sources

-- Bedouin tents in 1915: http://camelphotos.com/WorldCamels.html
-- Bedouins taking a rest in an oval order: http://camelphotos.com/WorldCamels.html

-- North Reich: hilly landscape with Jezreel valley: http://www.joerg-sieger.de/einleit/nt/01gesch/nt14.htm
-- South Reich: Dead Sea with steep coast: http://www.photo.net/photo/pcd1589/dead-sea-67.tcl