Middle Bronze Study Group: Selected Research Topics

Chronology
Incipient MB: what precisely do its beginnings look like?  Is there an overlap with the IBA, i.e. are there different social groups with markedly different material cultures living contemporaneously, perhaps utilizing different ecozones?  What are the criteria for determining a close, reliable relative chronology?  What is the situation with regard to absolute dating, with regard to radiometric dates and Egyptian and Mesopotamian/Syria synchronisms?

Immigration and culture change
Was immigration a factor in MB society? How do we detect immigration?  If it existed, what form did it take and where did it originate?

MB economy
Were the household and subsistence economies like those of the previous period or the EBII-III?  Did it change concurrently with changes in political economy?  What did the political economy look like and how did it change over time?

Settlement patterns and sociopolitical structure
How is settlement data gathered and how reliable is it?  How do settlement patterns and heirarchies change over time? What environmental factors come into play?  What are the implications regarding political organization?

Frontiers
Hill-country and desert marigins: how did they look, how were they perceived and described, who lived there and how did they change?

Ceramics (the big picture)
How and where were they manufactured (household industry, mass-production) and how were they exchanged?  What do patterns of production, utilization and exchange tell us about political relations and social boundries?

Iconography and Religion
Can we define an iconographic lexicon?  What are its origins?  Did it differ from what existed before?  What does it tell us about  the belief system or systems?


Writing and language
Letís create an updated catalogue of all relevant textual material--that actually found in MB contexts and that from outside sources which refer to MB Canaan.  What scripts were used, what dialects?  What topics are prevalent?  What are the respective roles of Egyptian, Old Babyonian Cuneiform and the incipient alphabetic script?  If the alphabet originated in the MB how and why did it do so?

Mortuary practices
How do we explain the variability in mortuary practices?  Do they comprise evidence of social group identity?  Can differing statuses be inferred?  Which ontological and cosmological concepts were in play?  Who gets buried in which type of burial?  Do existing remains account for an entire population?  If not, where is everybody else?

Crafts and craft specialization
To what degree is specialization a feature of Middle Bronze Age society and economy?  Do larger settlements show more evidence of specialization?  Which items are solely present as imports?  Does evidence exist for gender-oriented specialization? 

Glyptics
What are the social meanings to be associated with scarabs and cylinder seals?  To what degree are they chronologically indicative?  To what degree are their manufacture a specialist enterprise?  Where do imports originate and what are the ramifications of these origins.  What are the motifs displayed and what is their religious, economic and political singificance?

Paleobotany
Do ancient plant remains show evidence for environmental degradation?  Which arboreal species are utilized by people?  Can irrigation be discerned in the paleobotanical remains?  Is progress being made toward a dendrochronological sequence?

Physical Anthropology
Does human skeletal material show evidence for immigration or for differing populations?  What kind of pathologies are present?  What should we be looking for?  To what exent are Middle Bronze Age remains subject to haredi scrutiny and interference?  What was life expectency?  How much malnutrition was present and do these figures compare with other areas and other periods?

Paleoclimate
What was the climate like in the MB?  How does this reconstruction fit into the long term picture?  Can we attribute any new adaptations or social upheavals to climate change?  Why does there seem to be no settlement in the deserts during the MB?