|Egyptians at Early
Bronze Age Megiddo
Analytical Study of Early Bronze Egyptian Pottery Assemblage from
the Temple Compound
intriguing assemblage of Early Bronze Age pottery from Megiddo, discovered
during the 1996 excavation season, has been subjected to an analytical
petrographic study in order to ascertain its provenance. Petrographic analysis
aims to identify the geographic region from which a given object comes
by identifying its mineral content, then matching the results to the known
geological composition of likely regions of origin.
|The assemblage represents some type of squatter
activity within the abandoned monumental EBI (fourth millennium B.C.E.)
temple compound. The approximately 20 vessels were found bunched together
in an area of about one square metre, indicating that they were deliberately
placed there, likely as offerings.
Rachel Paletta of the Institute of
Archaeology of Tel Aviv University carefully restores the 'Egyptianizing'
pottery vessels found in the EBI temple complex.
|The Early Bronze Age I is a period that
witnessed an increasing Egyptian interest in Canaan. Egyptian architecture
and artifacts, including mainly pottery, but also flint and stone tools,
have been found at many sites dating to this period, especially in the
southern part of the country (the northern Negev and the Shephela).
The nature and motives for the interaction between
Egypt and Canaan are the subjects of a long-lasting debate. There are basically
two interpretations of the phenomenon. One attempts to relate the Egyptian
aspects of material culture to physical Egyptian presence in southern Canaan
by way of military conquest. The other attributes the remnants to peaceful
trade relations between them.
Analytical examinations of the Egyptian pottery from
sites in southern Canaan, such as Tel Erani, En Besor and Arad, were made
during the 1980s by Naomi Porat, then with the Geology Department of Hebrew
University. These investigations revealed that some of the more common
Egyptian pottery shapes were produced in southern Canaan using techniques
that imitated those employed in Egypt. As a result of her conclusions,
Porat coined the term 'Egyptianizing pottery' for those vessels which apparently
had been made by Egyptian potters who had settled in southern Canaan, together
with traders or administrators.
So far, Egyptianizing pottery has been found only
in the southern parts of the country, as far north as Azor, near Tel Aviv.
The finds at Megiddo push this limit a further 100 kilometres northward.
|Our examinations of the Egyptian pottery from Megiddo,
carried out in the laboratory of Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology,
revealed that it too was made in Canaan rather than Egypt.
The 'Egyptianizing' pottery from
Megiddo's EBI temple complex.
|However, many minerals and rock fragments
that were found in its clay (e.g. basalt) indicate that it was produced
locally at Megiddo, not in southern Canaan. In terms of technology, this
pottery also attempts to imitate Egyptian techniques and raw materials.
Thus, it is easily distinguishable from the common Early Bronze Age local
This unexpected data opens new possibilities for
interpretation of the Egyptian presence in Canaan. First, if the initial
interpretation of the Egyptianizing pottery is acceptable, it means that
Egyptian settlers colonized some locations in the more northern parts of
the country as well, perhaps within the Canaanite populations of the larger
settlements. Second, it shows that, contra the popular view that the initial
Bronze Age urbanization process in Canaan arose under the impetus of Egyptian
stimulation, Canaan, or at least Megiddo, was already fully urbanized,
or even declining from its first urban cycle, when the first Egyptian civilization,
as shown in the material remains of Megiddo, was influencing Canaan. Finally,
if indeed the vessels were brought to the temple as some type of offering,
it shows an, until now, undetected cultural syncretism between the Egyptian
element and their Canaanite hosts.
Institute of Archaeology,
Tel Aviv University