The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II

By Hardesty, Edgar B. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2013 | Go to article overview
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The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II

Hardesty, Edgar B., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II. By Avraham Faust. Translated by Ruth Ludlum. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012, xviii + 328 pp., $49.50.

The focus of archaeological investigation in the land of Israel has begun to broaden from local and tel-driven projects to more regional considerations. The data amassed by decades of scholars working in the field and centers of scholastic and academic pursuits lend themselves to addressing even broader areas of study. For some, the questions arising from the growing database and material record have prompted them to pursue the largely unaddressed anthropological and social implications of that data.

Dr. Avraham Faust is one of the leading voices in this new area of study. He is the director of the Institute of Archaeology and associate Professor at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan Unversity. He participated in a number of excavations and surveys and has been directing the excavations at Tel Eton since 2006. Faust is the recipient of many prestigious awards for his excellent work and is recognized as a leading speaker and author in the field of archaeology today. The volume before us, The Archaeology of Israelite Society in Iron Age II, is actually the third book authored by Faust that deals in part or on the whole with this subject. I encourage readers to peruse his previously published two volumes as well (Israel's Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance [Equinox, 2006] and Israelite Society in the Period of the Monarchy: An Archaeological Perspective [Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2005, published in Hebrew]). These three volumes together introduce the reader well to a continually developing treatise that extends from Israel's emergence in the land until the end of the Iron Age.

Eisenbrauns, the book's English publisher, describes this present volume's content as a contribution "not only to the study of ancient Israelite society but to the most fundamental questions about ancient societies." The discussion covers some nine chapters plus an introduction, epilogue, bibliography, and indexes. The work is copiously footnoted and solidly grounded in reference material that could readily stand on its own as justification for buying the book. The chapters address questions concerning the identification of socioeconomic stratification in the archaeological record, the study of family and community organization, the significance of the pottery record, small finds, architecture as an indication of wealth, and many other items of interest.

The book's introduction clearly marks the place of this book in current research. Archaeological evidence constitutes the main source of information. This is a significant departure from most past studies of Israelite culture that have been written from a textual perspective. The discussions found in this book are defined by the author as both preliminary in nature and temporary in their conclusions. They are a starting point even if that requires one to consider them a point of departure. That said, this book should be approached as one of the first attempts at a large-scale study of Israelite society mainly from archaeological evidence.

Chapters 1 and 2 provide the reader with a distillation of previous research and present extant conclusions defining the development and basic components of Israelite society and the processes it underwent in its development. Chapter 1 summarizes the historic research in the field without drawing specific conclusions. The differing options presented are examined further in subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 concerns itself with summarizing the archaeological record and points out that previous examinations of the data have not pursued a specific analysis of settlements from the viewpoint of their plan and organization. Indeed, there has been little analysis of the archaeological data from a social point of view in order that one might reconstruct Israelite society.

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