Monday, April 14, 2014

Israel/Palestine 2: Beginnings

The archeological record tells us that man became sapien, if not modern, in Africa about 200,000 years ago.  The scholarly consensus, and who am I to dispute it, agrees we are all out of Africa.

Qafzeh skull ~95,000 BCE
In the 1930's they found evidence of early modern man in caves on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, near Haifa, and in Galilee.  The remains of 11 modern humans were carbon dated to 90,000 to 100,000 years BCE--the earliest evidence of migration from Africa ever found.  But this excursion seems to have been a dead end.  Modern man did not leave Africa in earnest until approximately 50,000 years ago, with a first migration across from Ethiopia to Yemen, and a second migration through Egypt and into the eastern Mediterranean.

From there, man spread into the rest of Eurasia and Western Europe. But from at least 50,000 BCE on, man has lived in the coastal plains of Israel and the Judean hills.

Through 40,000 years of the late stone age in the eastern Mediterranean, archeologists have grouped periods according to the sophistication and refinement of the stone tools discovered, and the gradual movement from hunting and gathering in nomadic groupings towards more sedentary life in communities.

Emirian Culture

"Emirian culture was a culture that existed in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine) between the Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic periods.  [Roughly from arrival in Israel Palestine to about 30,000 years ago] .... Numerous stone blade tools were used, including curved knives similar to those found in the Chatelperronian culture of Western Europe."

Kebarian Culture

"Kebaran or Kebarian culture was an archaeological culture in the eastern Mediterranean area (c. 18,000 to 12,500 BC), named after its type site, Kebara Cave south of Haifa. The Kebaran were a highly mobile nomadic population, composed of hunters and gatherers in the Levant and Sinai areas who utilized microlithic tools. 
"The Kebaran is the last Upper Paleolithic phase of the Levant (SyriaJordanLebanonIsraelPalestine). The Kebarans were characterized by small, geometric microliths, and were thought to lack the specialized grinders and pounders found in later Near Eastern cultures. 
"The Kebaran is ... characterised by the earliest collecting of wild cereals, known due to the uncovering of grain grinding tools. It was the first step towards the Neolithic Revolution. The Kebaran people are believed to have practiced dispersal to upland environments in the summer, and aggregation in caves and rockshelters near lowland lakes in the winter. This diversity of environments may be the reason for the variety of tools found in their toolkits. ... They are generally thought to have been ancestral to the later Natufian culture that occupied much of the same range.[1]"

Natufian Culture

"The Natufian culture ... existed from 13,000 to 9,800 B.C. in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was unusual in that it was sedentary, or semi-sedentary, before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities are possibly the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. There is some evidence for the deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at the Tell Abu Hureyra site, the site for earliest evidence of agriculture in the world.[1] Generally, though, Natufians made use of wild cereals. Animals hunted included gazelles.[2] The term "Natufian" was coined by Dorothy Garrod who studied the Shuqba cave in Wadi an-Natuf, in the western Judean Mountains, about halfway between Tel Aviv and Ramallah.[3]"

Neolithic Culture

"The Neolithic Era, or  New Stone age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 10,200 BC... in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world[1] and ending between 4,500 and 2,000 BC. 
"Traditionally considered the last part of the Stone Age, the Neolithic ...  commenced with the beginning of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution". It ended when metal tools became widespread (in the Copper Age or Bronze Age; or, in some geographical regions, in the Iron Age). The Neolithic is a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of domesticated animals.[2] 
"The beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in ... Jericho (modern-day West Bank) about 10,200–8,800 BC. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming. ... As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 10,200–8,800 BC, farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. 
"Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheatmillet and spelt, and the keeping of dogssheep and goats. By about 6,900–6,400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.[3]"

 The Bronze Age and the Rise of Civilizations

In the Near East, the beginning of the bronze age (3300 BCE to 1200 BCE) coincided with the rise of Egypt and Mesopotamia as competing world powers.

"Organised society structured around urban centers first arises in Southwest Asia, as an extension of the Neolithic trend, from as early as the 8th millennium BC, of proto-urban centers such as Catal Huyuk [in Turkey]. Urban civilizations proper begin to emerge in the Chalcolithic, in 5th to 4th millennium Egypt and in Mesopotamia. The Bronze Age arises in this region during the final centuries of the 4th millennium. The urban civilizations of the Fertile Crescent now have writing systems and develop bureaucracy, by the mid-3rd millennium leading to the development of the earliest Empires. "

"In the 2nd millennium, the eastern coastlines of the Mediterranean are dominated by the Hittite and Egyptian empires, competing for control over the city states in the Levant (Canaan)." 

Homer, Troy and The Bronze Age Collapse

"The Bronze Age collapse is the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age, expressed by the collapse of palace economies of the Aegean and Anatolia, which were replaced after a hiatus by the isolated village cultures of the Dark Age period in history of the ancient Near East. Some have gone so far as to call the catalyst that ended the Bronze Age a "catastrophe".[1] The Bronze Age collapse may be seen in the context of a technological history that saw the slow, comparatively continuous spread of iron-working technology in the region, beginning with precocious iron-working in what is now Romania in the 13th and 12th centuries.[2] The cultural collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms, the Hittite Empire in Anatolia and Syria, and the Egyptian Empire in Syria and Israel, the scission of long-distance trade contacts and sudden eclipse of literacy occurred between 1206 and 1150 BC. In the first phase of this period, almost every city between Troy and Gaza was violently destroyed, and often left unoccupied thereafter (for example, HattusasMycenaeUgarit). The gradual end of the Dark Age that ensued saw the rise of settled Neo-Hittite Aramaean kingdoms of the mid-10th century BC, and the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire."
Which brings us, more or less, to King David, and Solomon, Solomon's Temple, and the real story of the Holy Land.

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