This lecture will present the recently gathered evidence for the nature of early urban settlements, their internal organization and the early Canaanite culture in the southern Levant during the Early Bronze Age II-III period (3100-2500 BCE) based on the recently concluded large-scale excavations at the archaeological site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. Most famous as Gath of the Philistines (Goliath’s hometown), Tell es-Safi/Gath was one of the largest walled cities in the region during the period. The excavations uncovered part of a large neighbourhood at the east end of the site with small sturdy multi-room houses built around a courtyard. It was originally thought that this is where the urban poor lived, yet its occupants had access to exotic trade goods from as far away as Egypt, used various recording methods, sacrificed unusual and expensive animals and built and maintained the neighbourhood over a long period of time. The results of the excavation suggest that Tell es-Safi/Gath was an important political and economic centre in this region from its earliest occupation until it was abandoned c. 2500 BCE along with all other major urban centres throughout the region.
Haskel J. Greenfield is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Judaic Studies at the University of Manitoba and Co-Director of the Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Lab at St. Paul’s College, Winnipeg, Canada. He is an anthropological archaeologist whose research focuses on the evolution of early agricultural and complex societies in the Old World (Europe, Africa and Asia) from the Neolithic through the Iron Age, while at the same time delving into the butchering practices of early humans in the New and Old Worlds. Geographically, his research covers a large swath of Old World societies, from Europe through the Near East and into Africa and investigates a range of topics including the evolution of food production and food processing technologies, colonization of new landscapes and intra-settlement organization. He has just completed the decade-long excavations of the Early Bronze Age city at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel, the Canaanite precursor of the famous Philistine site of ancient Gath (home of Biblical Goliath), with his co-director Prof. Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.