University of Malta

Rebecca Farrugia
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The Archaeological Evidence for Warfare in the Southern Levant during the Middle Bronze Age ca. 2000 – 1500 BC

The focus of my PhD research is to study the archaeological evidence for warfare in the Southern Levant during the Middle Bronze Age ca. 2000 – 1500 BC.  The Levant, which includes modern Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, is very much a landbridge joining Africa to West Asia and Europe; therefore, reference to contemporary neighbouring powers such as Egypt and Mesopotamia is necessary as these interacted and exchanged influences with the area under study. The main sites chosen for this research include Hazor, Megiddo, Lachish, Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell el-‘Ajjul, and Shechem; these have been chosen for their prominence and/or because they have been mentioned in the epigraphic sources.  Gesher was also chosen because the Middle Bronze Age burials there were intact and therefore provide useful insight for warrior burials. 

War is complex and involves moral and ethical issues; in this research war is defined as an organised armed conflict between two or more groups often ending in violence and bloodshed.  Warfare contains implicit messages through which the killing of other individuals is sanctioned and at times even glorified.  Propaganda and psychological warfare play integral roles in transmitting these messages as well as intimidating adversaries; the media through which we can still glean information include epigraphic and iconographic sources as well as monumental architecture.  

One characteristic feature of the Middle Bronze Age is the huge earthen ramparts that surrounded many sites. The defensive role of these massive structures has been questioned by some scholars who argued that there were weaknesses in the overall design which made the whole system vulnerable and for this reason these ramparts more likely served as prestige monuments.  These flaws, such as lack of walls on some ramparts, have been addressed in the literature mostly through architectural analysis and the effects of erosion.  Examining the evidence for warfare will help determine whether there was truly a need for these structures as a defensive mechanism or whether their role was merely symbolic.  In reality, the fortifications, whilst providing security, represented a psychological barrier to potential enemies and at the same time represented a symbol of power and status of those who commissioned these works.  Warrior burials, already practised during the Intermediate Bronze Age, are also a feature of the Middle Bronze Age. These too contain an element of prestige together with an image of strength and power.  

The evidence studied includes fortifications, weapons and related artefacts, destruction layers, mortuary deposits, and epigraphic sources.  I will explore the various types of evidence for warfare and how these could be implemented to attain a better understanding of these structures and the role they played within the societies that constructed them.

Funding organization



Prof. Anthony J. Frendo, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, University of Malta

Prof. John Schofield, Director of Studies, Cultural Heritage Management, University of York, UK

Educational background

B.A. (Melit.), M.A. (Archaeology) (Melit.)

Last Updated: 6 December 2016

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