Cultural Transition in the Northern Levant during the Early Iron Age as Reflected in the Aegean-style Pottery at Tell Tayinat

by Brian Janeway

Institution: University of Toronto
Year: 2014
Keywords: Aegean; Pottery; Tell Tayinat; Early Iron Age
Record ID: 2024736
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/65450


Did an invasion of the Sea Peoples cause the collapse of the Late Bronze Age palace-based economies of the Levant, as well as of the Hittite Empire? Renewed excavations at Tell Tayinat in southeast Turkey promise to shed new light on the critical transitional phase of the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age (c. 1200-1000 B.C.), a period which in the Northern Levant has until recently been considered a Dark Age, due in large part to the few extant textual sources relating to its history (Hawkins 2002: 143). Specifically, this thesis is based upon a stylistic analysis of a distinctive painted pottery known as Late Helladic IIIC (LH IIIC) excavated at the site. Its core is comprised of a diachronic study of the Tayinat ceramics tied into a synchronic comparison with sites across the region—the Amuq Valley, the Levantine coast, Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Aegean Sea basin. Two key objectives of the pottery analysis are to discern Aegean stylistic characteristics from those that are local, and to chronologically situate the assemblage on the basis of regional parallels. What precisely was the nature of Iron I occupation at the site? Renewed excavations suggest that a rudimentary village settlement may have been constructed. Were the inhabitants that founded the Iron Age settlement immigrants that originated in areas to the west—Cyprus, Western Asia Minor, or the Greek Mainland—who were in iii search of more hospitable environs to settle? Or were they elements of the indigenous population forced to start anew after the socio-economic disruptions at the end of the Late Bronze Age? Perhaps they comprised a mixed population of both groups? Stylistic analysis of the painted ware would seem to support the third alternative, resulting in a hybrid style that fused Aegean shapes and motifs with local traditions. Did they simply relocate from the ruins of neighboring Tell Atchana (ancient Alalakh) or from other settlements in the Amuq Valley? Perhaps the movements were not en masse, but rather consisted of small elite groups or tradesmen that assimilated into the local economy, the result of a prolonged process of acculturation. The nature and relative amount of LH IIIC pottery in the Tayinat assemblage favors a traditional migration model. This research begins to fill a longstanding lacuna in the Amuq Valley and attempts to correlate with major historical and cultural trends in the Northern Levant and beyond.