155 THE TRANSITION FROM THE CHALCOLITHIC PERIOD TO THE EARLY BRONZE AGE: AN ANALOGY TO A KNOWN HISTORICAL SITUATION

155 THE TRANSITION FROM THE CHALCOLITHIC PERIOD TO THE EARLY BRONZE AGE: AN ANALOGY TO A KNOWN HISTORICAL SITUATION

המאמר לקוח מהספר :

Van den Brink; E.C.M. and Yannai, E. 2002 (eds). In Quest of Ancient Settlements and Landscapes. Archaeological Studies in Honour of Ram Gophna. Tel Aviv: 155-158.

צילום: אמנון גת
מבט לכיוון צפון נחל בשור ותל אל פארעה באופק

Introduction
Since the Chalcolithic period and Early Bronze Age were recognized in Israel as separate cultural
entities there has been an ongoing debate within the archaeological community concerning the nature
of the transition between the two periods. Generally speaking, one can focus researchers’ positions
along a line drawn between those advocating the approach of some continuation of cultural and
technological elements between the two cultures (see for instance Amiran 1969: 22-23, 41; Dothan
1971; Amiran 1977; Amiran 1992; Braun 1990) and those scholars supporting an approach that
emphasizes the difference between the settlement patterns in the two periods (Gophna 1982: 98-100;
Alon and Yekutieli 1995: 183; Gophna 1995: 269-272; etc).
Below is an attempt at interpreting archaeological phenomena uncovered in excavations during
the transition between two periods and which are the subject of debate regarding the contemporaneity
of the last phase of the Chalcolithic period with the first phase of the Early Bronze Age. The
interpretation is a result of an analogy to the period of the Bilu association and the ‘Second Aliyah’
until the end of the Ottoman period (1882-1917 CE).

For “The Continuation of Ceramic Elements”
The village of Gedera was founded by members of the Bilu association in 1884, near the Arab
village of Katara and on part of the latter’s land. In the first period ten of Gedera’s founders resided
in a cave (Giladi 1983: 276; Vilnai 1977: 1226-1227). If an archaeological excavation were to be
performed inside that cave dwelling, one can almost safely assume that the ‘small finds’ in the cave
would be nearly identical to the finds one would turn up in nearby Arab Katara, located ten minutes
walking distance from the cave. These finds would include the same pottery vessels and means of
baking and cooking, similar pieces of attire (kaffias and abbayahs), weapons, pieces of harness, and
identical farming implements.
If the archaeologist would be satisfied with the analysis of these finds, there is no doubt that he
would determine that what he found in the cave are the remains of a ‘daughter settlement’ of Arab
Katara. However, further careful examination would reveal that the settlers of the site belonged to a
foreign population. Texts would be found that are written in Latin and Cyrillic letters as well as
luxury items (a ring? a watch?) of European origin, slightly different furniture, non-Moslem cult
objects and so on. If the archaeologist is fortunate there would have remained sufficient data in order
to understand that the social structure of this group is also different and that this difference is expressed
by the manner in which the living space is divided and how it is utilized.
Today we know that the entire assemblage mentioned above, despite its contemporaneity with the
Arab village of Katara, belongs to a different society, culture and ‘archaeological period’.

Changes in the Stone and Flint Tool Assemblages
It is generally appreciated that flint and stone (as raw materials used in producing tools and objects
demanding a high degree of rigidity) were gradually replaced by metal as the technology for metal
production became more sophisticated (Schmidt 1992: 89). The analogy in the instance of our test
case is as follows:
Most of the Bilu residents of Gedera still used tools that were popular in Arab Katara. However,
within a few years other villages were established. In these ‘sites’ it would be possible to find,
almost from their very inception (and primarily from the beginning of the 1890's and onwards),
attempts to adapt the iron plough to the conditions of the country while gradually foregoing the Arab
plough (Avitsur 1976: 326). It would be possible to discover within the dwelling structures ‘living
systems and accessories’ that were brought from Europe and that are alien to local traditions. These
would consist of systems for cooking and the preparation of food and illumination devices fueled
with paraffin (Avitsur 1975: 72), European methods of sewing and shoemaking and workshop
complexes for woodworking utilizing imported tools.
The changes in the ‘living systems’ are parallel to the changes found during the course of the
Early Bronze Age Ia and mainly in the Early Bronze Age Ib in the way flint tools are used, in their
nature, in the degree of precision regarding their aesthetic shape and in their relative part in the
assemblage of raw materials when copper gradually replaces them.

Traditional Elements in the Material Culture
Concurrent with the imported ‘living accessories’, the new residents in Gedera adopted traditional
elements that they learned from the Arab residents and incorporated them as permanent fixtures in
the fabric of their lives. These elements include the shoeing of horses and leather working, methods
of transport of goods and transportation, domestic storage vessels, methods of baking bread and so
on (Becker 1929). In spite of everything, even from a superficial glance at the site, at this stage it is
clearly apparent that there is a different population here. This would be evident from the shape of the
buildings; their allocation of space is completely different from the building in the nearby Arab
village and the burial practices are totally different.

The Settlement Map
One can already discern during the period of the ‘First Aliyah’ (1882 – 1903) the defined regions in
which the settlements of the European Jewish immigrants are concentrated: in the coastal valley and
its low-lands, the Lower Galilee and the Jordan Valley (equivalent to the ‘Early Bronze Age Ia and b’
phase {Vilnay 1968: 57}). This, at a time when the Arab population is thinly scattered across the
entire country including the mountain range. On the other hand the Arabs abstain from dwelling near
the marsh regions of the coastal plain and valleys. The Arabs also populate the cities and large towns
(Acre, Safad, Tiberias, Haifa, Nablus, Jaffa, Lydda, Ramla, Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza). And so
another group of ‘urban Arabs’ (Avitsur 1976: 99-106) is created that does not exist at all in the new
settlement of the Jewish Aliyah until the eve of the First World War (the equivalent of ‘the end of the
EB I’).
During the period of the ‘Second Aliyah’ (1904 – 1914) there is a marked, growing trend in the Jewish settlement mentioned above. The settlement map becomes clearly defined by the occupying
of valley regions and certain fringe districts as a result of economic and geopolitical constraints (=
the policy of land procurement, the finding of ‘available’ land) and ideological drives (‘the revival of
the Land of Israel; (Shavit 1983: 257-258; 273; Vitkin 1946). At this stage (the equivalent of the EB
Ib) two separate settlement systems already clearly exist that are not, from an archaeological standpoint,
dependant on one another and the possibility of the disappearance of one of them (‘the Chalcolithic’)
will not influence the development of the other (‘the Early Bronze Age’).

Conclusion
There can be no disputing that the settlement in Gedera by the members of the Bilu association
opened a new historic period whose beginnings occurred the day they settled the land. The presence
of ten people and later a handful of villages during one generation at the end of the 19th century and
the beginning of the 20th century within a population of half a million Arabs in the Land of Israel
(Avitsur 1976: 22) produced a model that helps us in understanding how to appreciate the appearance
of the EB Ia settlements in Israel as a new, independent social-cultural formation whose ‘archaeological
connections’ with the local Chalcolithic population are not necessarily proof of ‘internal development’
or of social – cultural links.

Dan Gazit

References

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