Restoring the Balance: An Early Bronze Age Scale Beam from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, Lebanon

By Genz, Hermann | Antiquity, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Restoring the Balance: An Early Bronze Age Scale Beam from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, Lebanon


Genz, Hermann, Antiquity


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Introduction

One of the many innovations of the third millennium BC was the concept of weighing. It greatly facilitated the exchange of various--especially precious--commodities, and was essential for controlling the composition of alloys in a developed metallurgy. While a number of weights and even scale beatos dating to the third millennium BC have been identified in the Aegean and western Anatolia, the evidence from Syro- Mesopotamia, where the concept of weighing supposedly originated, is rather scant. The recent find of a scale beam from Early Bronze Age levels in Tell Fadous-Kfarabida (Lebanon) serves as a starting point to rectify this imbalanced picture.

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The site of Tell Fadous-Kfarabida

The site of Tell Fadous-Kfarabida is situated 2km south of the modern town of Batroun in the village of Kfarabida directly on the Mediterranean coast (Figure 1). Five seasons of work undertaken at the site from 2004 onwards by a team from the Department of History and Archaeology of the American University of Beirut have established the high scientific importance of the site (Badreshany et al. 2005; Genz & Sader 2007; Genz 2009), as it is one of the few surviving coastal sites in Lebanon where Bronze Age levels are easily accessible. So far six levels of occupation have been identified, ranging from the early fourth to the early second millennia BC (Table 1). No later periods of occupation are attested at the site. The reasons for the abandonment of the site in the Middle Bronze Age are not yet clear.

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In Phase III the site extended over an area of 1.5ha (Figure 2). In Area I, along the southern slope of the site, a fortification wall with a monumental stairway on its outer side, probably leading up to an as yet unexcavated city gate, has been uncovered. In Area II in the centre of the site two domestic dwellings have been partially excavated (Figure 3). Each of the buildings consists of several rooms. Massive column bases inside the rooms indicate the existence of upper storeys (Figure 4). The buildings were separated by a narrow street. The floors of the buildings contained many pottery vessels and other objects in situ. These, together with many installations, such as ovens, mortars and benches, confirm the domestic character of the buildings.

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The layout of the settlement with densely-spaced buildings separated by narrow streets and the fortification clearly indicate the urban character of the settlement. However, due to its small size it was probably only a settlement of secondary or even tertiary rank. Unfortunately no survey data concerning the distribution and size of neighbouring sites are available for the immediate vicinity of Tell Fadous-Kfarabida, but surveys undertaken in the Beqaa Plain (Marfoe 1998:115-28) and the Akkar Plain (Thalmann 2006: 209-228) seem to indicate a tripartite settlement hierarchy, with the largest sites measuring around 4ha or more and sites of secondary order measuring 2-4ha, whereas tertiary sites are always smaller than 1ha. The distribution of centres or first order sites leads Marfoe (1998: 115-28) to reconstruct independent political units encompassing c. 50[km.sup.2], which he terms city-states or petty kingdoms. Tell Fadous-Kfarabida is definitely far too small to be the centre of an independent political entity, and it is most likely that it belonged to the territory of Byblos, only 12km to the south. Six AMS dates confirm the dating of Phase III to the first hall of the third millennium BC (Table 2).

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The scale beam

The object (Registration number FAD09.290/305.124) to be discussed here was found during the excavation season of 2009 in Context 714, a few centimetres above floor context (Context 715) in Room 3 of Building 2 (Figure 3). It can definitely be attributed to Phase III. …

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