were there israelites in the transjordan? asor article
The Land Between The Two Rivers: Early Israelite Identities in Transjordan
June 12, 2014 7:48 am
By: Thomas Petter, Associate Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Were there Israelites in Transjordan in the early Iron Age? How would we know from archaeology? Or if not Israelites (and Moabites), who should we be looking for?
The task of plotting identities in the past is tricky business. It becomes even more problematic when opinions diverge dramatically about the value of artifacts for historical reconstruction. The question is routinely raised regarding the history of early Israel in the southern Levant whether archaeology can recover anything that speaks to identities during the Late Bronze and early Iron I periods. Over half a century of scholarship attests that answers range from a definite “no” to a definite “yes,” with a few shades of “maybe’s” in between. While my book The Land Between the Two Rivers makes an historical claim that there were indeed early Israelites present, on the basis of long term cyclical settlement patterns in central Transjordan, my goal is also to propose a model of tribal ethnic identities that could be flexible enough to be applied to other historical settings.
Map of Transjordan showing sites mentioned in the text. Image courtesy of Thomas Petter.
Tall al-`Umayri fortification wall dating to the Late Bronze/Iron transition. Photo courtesy of Larry Herr and the Madaba Plains Project.