LEVANTINE - EGYPTIAN INTERACTIONS: PETROGRAPHIC STUDY OF THE CANAANITE POTTERY FROM TELL EL-DAB’A

Anat Cohen-Weinberger

Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, Israel, and the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel-Aviv University, Israel
 
Tell el-Dab’a and its related sites (‘Ezbet Rushdi and ‘Ezbet Helmi) provide a well-stratified sequence of habitation and burial remains, ranging between the 12th through the early 18th Dynasties. As a large number of vessels with typology similar to Canaanite shapes have been reported from various parts of the site, it has naturally been suggested that Canaanite pottery was transported from different regions of the Levant. In a previous study, using Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA), Patrick McGovern (MASCA Pennsylvania) suggested that the lion’s share of the Canaanite jars from Tell el Dab’a were imports from southern Palestine during the whole sequence. In our current research, we approach these issues through the application of petrography in order to identify the sources of the Canaanite pottery found in Tell el-Dab’a and its related sites. These important assemblages provide a unique opportunity to understand the trade relations between the eastern Nile Delta in Egypt and various regions in the Near East during the aforementioned sequence

The petrographic analysis carried out thus far shows significant and surprising results.  In complete disagreement with McGovern’s analysis, we suggest that the Canaanite pottery was imported first and foremost from the northern Levant, namely from the Lebanese and Syrian coastal area.  (This disagreement between the results from NAA and petrography has significant implications and will be explained in this presentation). In particular, during the early phases of the Tell el-Daba sequence, i.e., the end of the 12th dynasty and the 13th dynasty (strata H-G, d/2-1), about 70% of the Canaanite shapes were imported vessels from the Lebanese and the Syrian coast. Vessels imported from the northwestern Negev (loess made) and from the Central Coast of Israel (i.e, between Ashdod and the Carmel coast) are represented by only 5% and 9% of the assemblage, respectively. During the middle - late 13th dynasty (strata F-E/3, b/2-3), the quantity of imported vessels from the northern Levant decreased considerably but is still significant (almost 40%). During that time, the imports from the northwestern Negev and the central coast of Israel increased to 30% and 20%, respectively. Thus, the petrographic results suggest that the trade relations with the southern Levant increased during the middle-late 13th dynasty, but the relations with the northern Levant did not cease at that time. The significant changes in trade partners during strata F-E/3 support the low chronology suggested to these strata, dating it to advanced phase of the 13th dynasty (or 14th if the reconstruction of pre-Hyksos Canaanite dynasty at Tell el-Dab’a is accepted.). During the 15th dynasty, the trade relations with the northern Levant remain stable. The imported vessels from the northwestern Negev decreased to 11% and the quantity of local, Nile-made Canaanite vessels increased. Hence, the common view that the Hyksos kingdom of the Nile Delta maintained particularly close relations with the Middle Bronze Age II settlements of southern Canaan is not attested by the petrographic results. Noticeably, the booty captured in the vicinity of Avaris mention in the Kamose stela also points to long distance maritime trade.