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General Editor: James W. Flanagan (Missoula, MT)

Editorial Advisory Board: 7';"; ,; ........•.•..
Frank S. Frick·(AIbion,MIkr~0l"IIlanK. (;ottwald (New York, NY),
David M. Gunn (Decatur, G:A}, Howat'd Harrod (Nashville, TN),
Be.~~ard~.~Il~(~~der~?rn, :BRD), garo~~. ~~ye~. .(l)urhll;tn,.~C),
Eric<¥. Meye~ (I>ur~~, ~C), John)V. Ro~on(Sheffiel!;l,U.K.),
Thomas~. Overh()lt (~tevensPoint, WI), RobereR. Wilson
(New Haven, CT), Keith W. Whitelam (Sth-ling, U.K.)

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data:

Hopkins, David C.,195

The Highlan~sofC~~~an.
(The Soci~bJ:"o~ld..~f biblic~ ahti~~~ty.series, ISSN 0265-1408; 3)
'Originally submitted as a dissertation to the Vanderbilt University
Graduate Department of Religion in December of 1983"--Pref.
Bibliography: p.
Includes indexes.
1. Agriculture--Palestine--History. 2. Iron age-vPalest.ine. 3.
Agriculture in the Bible. 4. Palestine--Rural conditions. I. Title.
II. Series
S4~5.JI6!1!}85. 630'.933 85-19179
ISBN 0-907459-38-2
ISBN 0-907459-39-0 (pbk.)

Copyright .. © 1985 JSOT Press

ALMOND is an imprint of
Departmenl'l)f Biblical Studies
T~'U;ive'rslt£of Sheffield
!t: r _:,,/:,,:_:'~sJ}'~ ?Ji'" " . \
.Origination & Editorial:
P.O-. Box·52.0. Decatur, GA 30031, U.S.A.

This book is published in association with


Printed in Great Britain by

Dotesios (Printers) Ltd., Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

Preface 9

Chapter One
A. The Study of Agriculture in Ancient Israel 15
B. Agriculture and the Emergence of Israel 21

Chapter Two
A. Classifications of Agriculture 27
B. The Parameters of Agriculture 32
1. Environment 32
2. Agricultural Technology 36
3. Population 4-2
C. Summary 50

Chapter Three
A. Introduction 55
B. The Regions 56
1. The Negev Highlands 56
2. The Judean Highlands 58
3. The Sarnarian highlands 63
4-. The Galilean Highlands 67
C. The Consequences of Geomorphological Diversity 72

Chapter Four
A. Climate 79
1. Introduction 79
2. Seasonality 79
3. Air Temperature and Insolation 81
4. Precipitation 84
5. Water Availability 91
B. Climatic Change 99

Chapter Five
A. Introduction 111
B. Nature of the Climax Vegetation 111
C. Causes of Deforestation 115
D. Age of Deforestation 117
E. Consequences of Deforestation 120
F. Soil Landscape 123
1. Soil Distribution and Properties 123
2. Soils and Agriculture 130
G. Natural Vegetation and Soils:
Consequeoces for~ignIand Settlement 132

Chapter Six
A. Introduction 137
B. Settlement Pattern.: 138
1• . Community Layout 139
2. Individual Structures and Installations 142
3. Zonal Pattern of Settlement 157
C. Population Landscape and Agriculture 167

Chapter Seven
A. Introduction 173
B. Terrace Systems 173
C. Irrigation 186
D. Field Techniques 187

Chapter Eight
A. Introduction 191
B. Fallowing and Land-Use Intensity 192
I. Green Fallow 195
2. Crop Rotation 197
3. Sabbatical-Year Law 200
C. Fertilization 202
D. Terrace Systems 208
E. The Soil Base in Highland Agriculture 209
Chapter Nine
A. Introduction 213
B. Work in the Fields 213
1. Plowing and Planting 214-
2. harvesting 223
3. Vine and Tree Crops 227
4-. The Structure of \vork in the Fields 232
C. Land Use 235
1. Types of Land Use 235
2. Land-Use Pattern 237
3. Crop Mix and Yielding Characteristics 24-1
4. Agriculture and Livestock husbandry 24-5
5. Land-Use Pattern: Summary 250
D. Social Structure and Institutions 251

Chapter Ten

Notes 279
Abbreviations 286
Bibliography 287
Indexes 314-
Maps 324-


1. Land-Use Classifications 29
1. Land Quality Variation 34-
2. Water Balance - Jerusalem 93
3. Possible Rotational Pattern A 198
4-. Possible Rotational Pattern B 198
5. Sabbatical Year in Biennial Rotation 201

To my wife,
Denise Dombkowski Hopkins,
fellow teacher, scholar, and parent.

This volume presents my study of agriculture in the early

Iron Age Highlands of Canaan which was originally submitted
as a dissertation to the Vanderbilt University Graduate
Department of Religion in December of 1983. The manuscript
has not been rewritten, though some revisions, mostly
matters of presentation, have been made. For the acceptance
of the work for the Social World of Biblical Antiquity Series
and for the expeditious handling of the publication process, I
am deeply grateful to Jim Flanagan, editor of the series, and
David Gunn, its publisher. It is a privilege to be a part of the
work of the Almond Press. I am grateful also to Eric M.
Meyers for the co-sponsorship of ASOR.
This study began as an investigation of a fairly cir-
cumscribed biblical legal tradition. The attempt to discern
how the sabbatical year, "shernitta," and the jubilee year fit
into ancient Israelite agrarian society soon met with the
realization that no adequate portrait of agricultural life in
biblical times existed. Thus the present work took shape. The
original focus now provides but an ambiguous piece of evi-
dence along the way.
I am very happy to acknowledge two experts on ancient
Israelite agriculture whose assistance stands out among all
that I have received. Oded Borowski graciously shared his
research on Iron Age agriculture with me almost before the
ink had dried on his dissertation. Lawrence E. Stager gen-
erously supplied me with some bibliographic references at the
beginning of my research and also made available to me a
rough form of his study of early Israelite Highland villages.
The impact of Stager's work especially with respect to
Highland demography is duly noted in the text.
My debt to my teachers at Vanderbilt can hardly be
acknowledged. Any success that my work has achieved is
owed to Douglas A. Knight, Walter Harrelson, Lou H.
Silberman, and James L. Crenshaw - to their learning and
teaching and to their example. I also add a word of thanks to
anthropologist Ronald Spores, also of Vanderbilt, whose ad-
vice at the initial and final stages of my project proved to be
of great worth.

David C. Hopkins Summer, 1984



Woodcuts are taken from John Kitto's
Palestine: The Physical Geography and
Natural History of the Holy Land
(London, 1841) and (p. 211 only) his
Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature
(New York, 1857), vol. 1.


M"OWltaiDli orGalilee and Samaria..

Chapter One


A. The Study of Agriculture in Ancient Israel

HE astonishing thing about the study of the ag-

ricultural world of ancient Israel lies not so
much in how little is known as in how little
energy has been expended in trying to know. This
0..;;;;;;====.1 deficiency appears all the more pronounced
against the conspicuous fact that along with the largest slice
of the world before the Industrial Revolution and, indeed,
even today, ancient Israel was an agrarian society. The
explanation for this neglect has been set forth often enough:
the preference for the ideological rather than the material in
the study of ancient Israel (see Gottwald 1979b: 592-607;
Netting 1977: 57). The present work aims to help remedy this
situation by beginning to compose a portrait of the funda-
mental material basis for the existence of ancient Israel: its
agricultural systems.
"Records of agricultural development before the
Hellenistic and Roman periods are so scattered and meagre
that they provide but little basis for the sustained narrative"
(Reifenberg 1955: 79). These words of A. Reifenberg display
the prevalent view that data on the early history of eastern
Mediterranean agriculture are unremediably deficient. Meth-
od,consequently, must occupy a preeminent place in any
investigation of ancient farming systems which hopes to be
less pessimistic. While this work is not a methodological
treatise, questions about how one is able to reconstruct the
economies of the ancient world surface again and again as
the description and. analysis of agriculture in earliest Israel
proceeds. Thus an orientation to this study can be gained
through a brief consideration of the kinds of data upon which
it draws and, to use Reifenberg's words, the nature of the
"sustained narrative" that it presents.
To be fair to Reifenberg, who was writing at the midpoint
of this century,one major source of evidence of the

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

agricultural systems of ancient Israel had not in his day

become the massive mine of data on material life that it
presently comprises, namely the results of archaeological
excavations and surveys. A recent dissertation by Oded
Borowski (1979) has collected much of this invaluable
information in a catalogue of .the. components of Israelite
agriculture. Despite its essential contribution, the value of
archaeology for reconstructing the agricultural economy of
ancient Israel has scarely begun to be tapped. Few in number
have been archaeological research strategies designed with
the collection of agriculturally relevant data at the forefront
of their intentions. As Dever has \vdtten:
Attention has been. duly pai~tbexcavatif'lgtowl1
defenses, •monumental str\lctures such- as. pala;cesand
temples, and other evidences 0f)nstitutionaI o~ public
life. But the private sector (or "dailyIife)nansient
times") so readily illuminated. by archaeology has been
inadequately dealt with. Palestine has produced a wealth
of material for the Iron Age, yet oneh.a.s only to reflect
on how little.we yet know of IsraeIiterl1aterial .• culture
apart. from . a bare catal?g .of. typical artifacts
(forthcoming; see also de Geus 1975: 65).
This situation is changing, happily, and the signs of the
change are recognizable not only in the intentional pursuit of
data on ancient farming (especially Edelstein and Kislev
1981), but in the growth of specialized pursuits with great
implications for the . advancement of .relevant knowledge.
Here. the most lraportan; developments in this regard can be
listed. Paleosteclogical iov,estigations are adding to
knowledge of ancient demography,· through the analysis of
human bones and cemetery popuiations(Angel 1972), as well
as agricultural and pastoral pursuits and their interrelation,
through the recovery, analysis, and interpretarion: of bones
from the animal portion of the ancient diet. (La Bianca 1978,
1979a, 1979b). A few palynological investigations have been
attempted, and while conditions for the preservation of
pollen are not ideal in· the land of ancient Israel, future
discoveries may help solve important questions about the
, vegetational history of the region (Horowitz 1971, 1974,
1978). Examination of vegetational remains recovered in
excavations (paleoethnebotenyl-.ts becoming more. common,
adding not only to the record of vegetationaL.change, but to
the inventory of crops known to have .been cultivated in
ancient times (HelbaekI958, 1960; Lipshitz and Waisel 1973a,

Chapter One - Introduction

1973b, 1976, 1980; Renfrew 1973). More and more valuable

data:a.re,bei,ng,\assembled -, as sophisticated analytical
techniques pro~excavated artifacts that used to appear in
archaeological reports merely as line drawings with notations
about color, ',condition, and decoration. The description of
ceramic finds can be amplified through spectrographic
analysis along with other techniques that provide information
about the origin and manufacturing process of pottery (Glock
1975). Significant new data about the beginnings of the use of
iron have been achieved from iron artifacts through a
spectrum of means of metallurgic analysis. Concrete
evidence can now supplement and correct previous
impressions about the introduction of iron which had been
based primarily on literary sources (Stech-Wheeler et ale
L981). Computer-aided statistical analysis of finds and
find-spots opens the possibility of testing a variety of
hypotheses with respect to the functions of various buildings
or site activity loci and perhaps even sociological
organization (McClellan 1977). In truth it must be noted that
the evidence created by the application of these new
research methods is not presently available in sufficient
quantity to be determinative. The contributions of these
branches of archaeological science lie still beyond the
horizon, though suggestive clouds have begun to appear. One
senses a frustration with the previous narrow conception of
archaeological investigation not unlike that felt by
stratigraphic excavators about digs before the davs of
Wheeler-Kenyon. It would be incautious not to add here,
however, that there are real limits to what archaeology is
able to testify concerning the conduct of agricultural
systems, especially in the long-occupied land and
multi-layered sites of this region. Numerous agriculturally
related practices ordinarily leave no trace in the soil.
One item,' which has .the potential of overcoming this
inherent limitation has not been recovered archaeologically
to any helpful extent. Epigraphic materials, deriving usually
from commerce and government, can testify much about
agricultural operations, but these are few and far between in
the archaeological record. Most outstanding have been the
Nessana papyri, records in a technical sense of the economic
life of this Negeb settlement. But these records stem from
the 6th and 7th centuries C.E. (Mayerson 1960: 14--21). The
Samaria Ostracaand the ostraca from Arad present limited
information about the administration of foodstuffs, but
permit only the most tentative kind of inferences about the

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

conduct of agriculture> in Iron Ag~II(lstaeLMuseum 1973:

}q-38, 48~3). Only ,the Gezer Calendar offers any help for
reconstructing 'the cOUrse<of 'the • • i1griCulturi11'year;:in'.early
Israe.l(Albright?1 943; Borowski;f979:':58:':'()2). The much
greater wealth of epigraphic as :well as <pictoriographic
material preserved ,from Israel's <:ancientheareastern
neighbors may provide somehelpfulana16gies to Israelite
agricultural practice, .but must' be 'used cautiously since the
choice of agricultural practices' is determined by a
constellation of factors, many Of which differ substantially
among the ancient empires.' whose archives" tombs,and
temples have yielded such / rich finds (Hartmann 1923;
Wilkinson 1890,2: 1-.55; Pritchard 19.5q: 2q-29).
The literary legacy of ancient Israel constitutes the second
major category of, data for reconstructing its farming
systems. As with nearly every other matter of interest to the
historian, data preserved in' the Hebrew Hibleabout ancient
Israelite agriculture has not earned its" place because of its
inherent value. There is no biblical portrait of agriculture
drawn bv the intention to describe and inform. Portraits of
agricultural operations, such as the harvest scenes in Ruth,
provide settings for interplay between characters upon whom
the attention of the reader is focused. Numerous
agriculturally related' terms populate the rich collection
similes drawn from the agricultural sphere as would be
expected in an agrarian society. Hut the technical meanings
of most terms, relative to other terms and to farming
practice in general, are matters of hypothesis. The legal
literature constitutes the richest source of information
regarding agricultural practice, but even here the interpreter
is left the task of placing the adumbrated practices within
the larger agricultural context•. Beyond this there stands
always the question of whether specific laws are crescive or
enacted, descriptive or idealistic," that 'is, basically the
question of the extent of compliance. Needless to say, only a
fraction of ancient ISrael's agricultural system is reflected in
the legal literature. Despite these reservations, the Hebrew
Bible remains the most important source for reconstruction
of Israelite agricultural systems in that it .evidences their
basic components. The Bible itself does not, however, provide
the framework for understanding how these components fit
together systemically.
No literature parallel to that bequeathed by the classical
agronomists of Greece and Rome helps to color in the picture
of Israel's agricultural practice. The closest, thing is not close

Chapter One - Introduction

atal1: the many helpful indicators of the

conduct in Roman times, but is intended
neither )to bea practical handbook nor a more-or-less
systematic treatises» Herman Vogelstein's treatment (1894;
more recently Sperber 1978) of agriculture of the mishnalc
period gathers the talmudic evidence into systematic form,
but the evidence remains applicable to earlier Israel only in
the form of analogy.
The fragmented data on agriculture in ancient Israel
supplied by archaeology and biblical study cannot be
meaningfully interpreted without reference to the ag-
ricultural systems of living societies. Ethnography has been
increasingly called upon in biblical studies to contribute to
the reconstruction of ancient Israelite society (Wilson 1979:
178), and copious, though circumspect use of its testimony
has been made in this study. Two ways in which.>~.~i~i~~p:£~~.~ii~
d':!~')ig~~.~i been used can be distinguished. First~1i~"'~~fiie
tilll_;fave been called upon to illuminate the constraints ~(..
and possibilities of agricultural subsistence in ancient Israel. ~ ,
Here "the ethnographic data perform a heuristic function by '-Y
suggesting some of the possibilities" for interpreting data E!~.,
about the structuring of agricultural life (Aschenbrenner
1976: 160). Analogies have been drawn from communities of
the same social scale, possessing parallel technological
assemblages, and populating similar physical environments.
There exist a few ethnographic accounts of communities
which presently inhabit the same regions as the Israelite
settlers did three thousand years ago. Turkowski (I 969) in
particular has presented a fairly detailed picture of the
operations of the agricultural year in the Judean Highlands
before the advent of the state of Israel. Access to similar
data is also available through the multi-volume work of
Gustav Dalman (1932-1935), though neither of these studies
constitutes a holistic description of Palestinian agricultural
society. Closer in this respect is the study by Richard Antoun
(I972) of the Transjordanian village Kufr al-Ma. Antoun's
study focuses primarily on the social structure of this village,
however, and has devoted little energy to the elucidation of
ecological relationships. The helpfulness of these ethno-
graphic studies and compendia of data is great but limited by
their small number and also by their lack of systemic
perspectives. Increasing the number of communities studied
would raise the. level of confidence in the analogies
discovered. Analogies have also been drawn from the studies
of villages throughout the eastern Mediterranean, especially

Hopkins. - The Highlands of Canaan

tt)osE:.lnhighland . regions (e.g~"i¥cDOOfo\ldand Rapp :1972;

·F()r:!>~.s .;I~Z 6;
Marfoe •. 19&0;.' Lew isI 9531.WhHe geographical
pr~xll'pltyiebbs ..away,.the.continuityof .• the dv\editetranean
Gllmate.·•.withitssharp •. seasonality iespeciaHy recommends
these communities. . .
•The process • ' of selecting tandsempleylng analogies from
ethnographic literature requries .a good deal of sensitivity
which can hardly be described empirically. Alongside of the
factors of economy and distance in terms of time, space, and
form, Ascher adds to his picture of a systematic approach to
choosing analogies lithe closeness of fit of the relationships
between forms in the archaeological situation with
relationships between forms in the hypothesized analogous
situation", (1 961: 323). This is a matter entirely in the hands
of '.. the . interpreter. Thus in this study, the ethnography of
AndeanviIlages supplies, perhaps surprisingly, some very
helpfuL suggestions regarding the possibilities of structuring
agricultural -Iife r.in a diverse highland region (e.g., Brush
1977). Here the heuristic function of the analogies is clear:
they .don't add measurably to the probability that certain
social. Jormsor technical strategies existed among the
communities of the Israelite Highlands, but they do whet the
acuity of the one struggling to comprehend the nature of the
adaptation to this diverse and fragmented region. Binford has
argued that the fit of any analogy is not determined by the
criteria of its selection, but is "a problem to be solved by the
formulation of hypotheses testable by archaeological data"
(I968: 270). This has not been attempted in this study. The
description of many facets of the agricultural systems of
ancient Israel remains at the level of suggestion, to be raised
to the level of probable fact only by future testing in
carefully designed programs of research.
A second use of ethnographic data serves to construct a
general picture of the nature of agricultural systems and to
illuminate the dynamic relation of environment, population,
and technology in determining their shape. Ethnographic
observations have contributed to a model of how agriculture
works, and it is this functional model that has provided the
framework for analyzing available data and employing it in
the description of the particular agricultural systems of
ancient Israel. Ethnographic studies and anthropological
theorizing that are associated with the desire to understand
the systemic interrelationship of the environment, the needs
of subsistence, and the structure of human communities have
played the greatest part in formulating this framework (e.g.,

Chapter One - Introduction

Netting 1968, 1977: 57-&2; Waddell 1972: Wolf 1966). Some of

the particular emphases of the agricultural model stem from
this conceptualworld'fndstrategy of research, namely: the
notion that environment does not interact with community in
a staticway,theconviction thatcnange in population size
relative to available ., resources constitutes an important
mechanism of systemic change, and a very broad definition of
technology as comprising more than just the tool inventory of
the society (see Heider 1972; Orlove 1980; Vayda and
Rappaport 1968). Whether or not one agrees with the mode of
conceiving of human society that underlies this model, its
presence in this work marks a departure from previous
studies of Israelite agriculture which fail to provide any
interpretive model of agricultural systems. Intentional
concern with such models is essential not only as a statement
of interpretive perspective within a larger scholarly context,
but as an aid in the recovery of data that may be obscured by
a too narrow concentration on one aspect of an agricultural
system. It is in this concern for agriculture as a system that
fresh meaning can be found for Reifenberg's words "sustained
narrative." In essence, what this study seeks is not a time
line or an agricultural· history but an understanding of
agriculture's complex, multi-d imensional body and a charting
of its dynamics in ancient Israel. It is through an
understanding of the interrelationship of the various
determinants which shape agricultural systems that a
"sustained narrative" can be composed.

B. Agriculture and the Emergence of Israel

Borowski's dissertation on agriculture in Iron Age Israel

sets out to describe the "state of agriculture" and warns that
as a result of the limitation of evidence, the picture
developed "is a still picture rather than a moving picture
showing progress and development" (1979: 2, 4). But the lack
of sufficient scenes to create a motion picture does not
justify creating a collage of stills to represent the whole.
Limitations on data do hamper efforts to describe the
development of Israelite agriculture thoughout the Iron Age,
but this does not mean that there were no crucial changes in
the determinants of the conduct of agriculture during this
lengthy period. In fact, the changes throughout this period in
the social, economic, demographic, and even environmental
determinants of agricultural systems are sufficiently great
that no single, comprehensive picture can be accurate.

Hopkins .. The Highlands of Canaan

Though ther~. Is .historical COfltinuity . in the people, metho-

dologicaJ~y~!->is,u!1SQ{jnc:iito.jointogethet"iJevidence .spanning
theIt:Qfl.~geintoa~ingle portrait. It is essential, therefore,
that. a. f~us on a particulaJ;" period of the Iron Age be chosen
in order to ,limit the extent to which incompatible details of
the agricultural systems are forced together.
The period chosen for this study is the.period of Israel's
emergence in the Canaanite Highlands before the united
resistance to the Philistines and others under the leadership
of Saul (ca. .J250..J 050B.C.E.). Archaeologically, this is the
period of the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron
Age, in particular the early Iron Age or Iron Age I (Aharoni
1982: 153-157;deVaux 1978: 679-(80). At the end of this
period, ,the formation of the monarchy represents the
decislve break in the conduct of agriculture that necessitates
!henarrow ,.focus •if " a clear. picture of the conduct of
agriculture is to be sketched (Hopkins 1983). This focus also
offers the benefit of setting the geographical boundaries of
~he study within the Highlands' regions, the heart of all
ISraelite history, but the exclusive locus of settlement and
control during Iron Age I. The territorial expansion of the
early-monarchy into the plains' regions constitutes another
slgniflcant division between the two periods which is of
fundamental importance in characterizing their agricultural
systems. Although there are good reasons for their inclusion,
the Transjordanian Highlands are not encompassed by this
pescription of the agricultural systems of the period of
ISraelite emergence. Practical concerns, especially the
]imited access to information on the environment and the
slower pace of 'archaeological research, were the weightiest
factors in shaping their exclusion (see Sauer 1982; Sawyer and
~lines 1983).
The fact that there exists no scholarly consensus as to the
nature of the process involved in the emergence of Israel in
~he early Iron Age, indeed the debate is more vigorous, more
complex, and more voluminous today than it was just ten
years ago, contributes both to the difficulty and to the
potential of the study of agriculture during this period (Miller
1!977; Gottwald 1979b: 191-227, 489-587; Weippert 1971). The
difficulties are obvious and consist in a lack of resolution
ccncerrung the time frame, origin and previous social and
economic state of the settlers, and the size of the population
ipvolved in the process.' The potential can be Illustrated
e:asily. Descriptions of the process of Israelite emergence in
the Highlands of Canaan often place a good deal of weight

Chapter One - Introduction

upon a single technological innovation or constellation of

innovations that radically altered the ability of the Highland
region to support habitation, that is, transformed the conduct q~«
of its agricultural systems /1/. Thus, Albright adduced the CMsCV~k
role of the discovery -ofva waterproof lining for cisterns at ~~!
([1960) 1971: 113; also Borowski 1979: 10; Gottwald I979b: 656; ~~l
Thompson 1979: 66). Gottwald views the introduction of iron
as the decisive material basis for the expansion of settlement
in the Highlands, where it had a "great and immediate
impact" in Israelite "techno-economics" (I979b: 655; also
Borowski: 1979: 10; de Geus 1976: 168; Miller 1977: 255, 257).
More recently, a similar role has been envisioned for the art
of terrace construction which is viewed as a necessity for the
conduct of agriculture in the rugged Highland topography
(Stager forthcoming; Thompson 1979: 66).
The task before a study of agriculture in this period of the
emergence of Israel is to determine not only the extent to
which such technological "innovations" as these were
incorporated into agricultural practice, but more
importantly, precisely how they were integrated into the
larger agricultural system and the extent to which they - by
themselves or in conjunction with other developments -
transformed the conduct of agriculture. Did these
"innovations" actually facilitate the expansion of settlement
in the early Iron Age Highlands and were they antonomous
spurs to the formation of Israel? To anticipate the results of
this inquiry: the technological component of agricultural
systems (understood as tools or techniques) has been grossly
overplayed. When this single-minded focus on technology is
broadened to encompass the other determinants of
agricultural subsistence in the early Iron Age Highlands, its
significance recedes. Developments in farming technology do
not suffice to characterize the agricultural systems of this
period or to chart such changes as occurred. In fact, it is
quite doubtful from the standpoint of agricultural operations
that any of the aforementioned technological developments
exercised a determining influence on the emergence of Israel.
The systemic description of agriculture in the early Iron
Age Highlands of Canaan offered by this study sheds light on
the process of the emergence of Israel, but it does not
eventuate in a reconstruction of the history of this period.
The illumination emanates primarily from the ability of a
functional model to describe the relations among elements of
a system and to be able on that basis to assess the
consequences of changes in any of its parts (see Gottwald

Hopkins ,.1he Highlands of Canaan

1979b: 608-61 n.On -the basis of the understanding of the ,TTi'

dynamics of agriculture -set ',forth here, the chaIJenges and~;
possibilities confronting a:given population, in itsstrugg1e foe;
subsistence intheeariy Iron (\ge Highlands of Canaan can be ,
stated. This leads to abetter" appreciation of the process ofi
the formation of Israel in the Highlands, but does not cast ';
direct light on the existence of a proto-Israel in the;"
Highlands of the Late Bronze Age or outside the Highlands



Terrace Cultivation.

Chapter Two


/\. Classifications of ,A.griculture

GRIC ULTLJRAL systems exist around the world

in astonishing variety. western, ethnocentric
perspectives have often obscured the great range
of the world's agricultural activity as well as its
~~~~~ subtle adjustment to its many and varied
physical and cultural environments (Netting 1977: 58). ,A. fair
appreciation of the variety of the world's agriculture can be
gained from the ongoing study of the location of agriculture
on the part of agricultural geographers. A recent study of the
world's agricultural regions by David Grigg wrestles with the
difficulties involved in the construction of typologies of
agriculture and settles on a list of nine major types: (I)
shifting agriculture, (2) wet-rice cultivation in Asia, (3)
pastoral nomadism, (4) Mediterranean agriculture, (5) mixed
farming in Western Europe and North Arner ica, (6) dairying,
(7) the plarrtat ion system, l8) ranching, anc large-scale
grain production (1974: 3; see also Spencer and Stewart 1973:
529). Among the factors upon which typologies such as this
one are based are the type of crop rotation, the intensity of
the rotation, the water supply, the cropping pattern and
animal activities, the implements used for cultivation, and
the degree of commercialization (Ruthenberg 1976: 14-17).
By employing these criteria, farms displaying similar
characteristics may be grouped together in a world-wide
system of agricultural regions.
Despite outward appearances, most classifications such as
Grigg's are in no way attempts to explain the occurrences of
different agricultural systems in simplistic, geographical-
environmental terms. Grigg himself is inclined to emphasize
the role of the history of a region's agriculture in attempting
to understand its existence (1974: 1). Rather they are merely
expressive of the appropriateness of the geographical ap-
proach to the analysis of agriculture. The world's agricul-
tural regions may be mapped.
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

For our purposes the major limitation of this geographical

approach is that it is synchronic and describes agriculture as
it exists in a given region at a given time. The parameters of
the shape of a particular agriculture naturally come into
consideration. But such typologies ', of agriculture tell only
part of the story since they fail to communicate the range of
agricultural possibility within a region and through time. A
number of attempts to provide a classification of agriculture
which would serve this function have been made. These
attempts focus not on the agricultural regions of the world,
but on a denominator common to all agrieulture, that of land.
use. Land use may be defined as the degree to whieh <a.< given'
plot of land is cropped over a period of time, or as-Allan p~t
it,"the relationship between the duration of cult~vation()
each of the land or soil units used in classification and th
period of subsequent rest required for the restoration
fertility" (l965: 30). ..
This relationship is spoken of in terms of the "intensity" of
land use. The land units cultivated most frequently, thus
having the shortest periods of rest subsequent to cultivation,
are said to exhibit the highest Intensity of .land use. 1 h~
opposite of intensive land use is extensive land use. The land
units which have the longest periods of rest subsequent to
cultivation are said to exhibit the most extensive land use. In
addition to the frequency of cropping, standard definitions of
land-use intensity have also included the factor of additions
of capital and labor to a given unit of land (Bradford and
Kent 1977: 155). Four agricultural land use classifications
created by economists and anthropologists . from divergent
perspectives merit comparison and comment. (See Table 1,
next page.)
W. Allan's six-fold classification is based upon soil types
(1965: 30-35). Allan sets soil type at the center of his
classification of agricultural land use because he believes
that soil type, with its specific, innate fertility, imposes
(along with other physieal features) restrictions upon the
intensity of land use. Thus the soils of permanent cultivation
land are able to sustain an agricultural system of alternate
crop and fallow periods of equal duration, if not continuous
cropping. Near the other end of the spectrum
shifting-eultivation land contains soils so infertile that they
require extensive rests after only a few years of cultivation;
Allan's classification charts the possibilities of agriculture in
a variety of distinct s e t t i n g s . '
Eric Wolf's land-use classification carries on some geo J

Chapter Two - Agricultural Systems

Table 1
Land-Use Classifications

Type Crop-Fallow Ratio (in years)

A. Allan
Uncultivatable or waste Available for other purposes
Partial cultivation land Variable cultivation of sites
Shifting cultivation land 1 : more than 10
Recurrent cultivation land 1-4: 1-10
Semi-permanent land 1-2: 1-3
Permanent cultivation 1-0 : 1-2

Long-term fallowing systems 1-4: 1-10
Sectorial fallowing systems 2-3: 3--4
Short-term fallowing 1-2 : I
Permanent cultivation 1: 0
Permanent cultivation of Combined land uses
favored plots (infield-
outfield system) /2/

C. Von ThQnen
Pasture-stock farming Extensive pasture
- no cropping
Three field system 1: 2
Alternate crop-fallow I:1
Fodder-legume rotation 1:0
Forestry /3/ Extensive use
Dairying-horticulture 1 : 0 no rotation

D. BOserup
Forest-fallow cultivation 1-2: 20-25
Bush-fallow cultivation /4/ 1-8: 6-10
Short-fallow cultivation [1-2] : 1-2
Annual cropping 1 : 0 Seasonal fallow
Multi-cropping 1 : 0 Successive crops
without fallow

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

graphical features of Grigg's since it intends to relate the

various agricultural systems, which have characterized
peasant economies . throughout .tl}eworld-. These he labels
~ ecotypesI5/. Outside of the chief criterion of
land-use Intensity, other critical factors employed by Wolf in
distinguishing these ecotYf>es are amount of land used, Iabor
requirement, implements, and length of growing season. Thus
he notes that the dominant tool in sectorial farming systems
is the hoe or digging stick, but that short-term fallowing
systems are dominated by the plow. Permanent cultivation is
associated with techniques for assuring a permanent water
supply. Wolf's detailed discussion of these paleotechnic
peasant ecotypes deals predominantly with the regional
specificity of land-use types (so short-term fallowing is
labeled "Eurasian Grain Farming" and subdivided into
major variant ecotypes, the Mediterranean and
Transalpine). However, he recognizes as well the possibility
of progression from one ecotype to another in the same
locality, under certain circumstances (so swidden systems
may be transformed by technical innovation into short-term
agriculture characterized by the use of the draft plow).
Wolf's attention to peasant agriculture produces a strong
regional orientation in his classification, but his primary
objective is to show how a number of factors combine to
shape agricultural systems (1966: 20-21, 29-34).
The seminal study of the location of agricultural
production by J. von ThGnenprovides yet another system, but
one quite different than the others ([1826] 1921; see Hall 1966
and for general discussion of the model: Bradford and Kent
1977: 28-41; Chisholm 1962: 21-35). It includes the additional
systems of stockfarming and dairying in a description of the
location of various but. all highly intensive (except forestry)
land uses around a single, central city. Von ThGnen based his
scale on a consideration of all the costs of crop production
and their variation with distance from the market place. His
ideal model assumed a uniform environment in terms of soil
fertility, climate, topography, and market in order to observe
the operation of the factor of transportation costs. For a
given crop, von Thiinen argued, intensity of cultivation will
. diminish with distance from the market since higher
transportation cost means more rapidly diminishing returns
from the costs of intensification of production. One would
expect grain to be grown ina more intensive fashion nearer
the market than farther away. For a farm cultivating a
number of different crops the location theory (what crop

Chapter Two - Agricultural Systems

where and in what intensity) is not so simple, but the

comparativ~interrelationship.0£ . crop output, costs, and
transportability will determine the location and intensity of
its various crops. Von Thunen's agricultural intensity
classification presents a pictureoi a single system in a given
uniform locus drawn with static-state explanations phrased in
economic terms.
Von Thiinen held environment uniform in order to observe
the functioning of other variables and paid little attention to
historical development in determining agricultural intensity.
Economist Ester Boserup almost completely dismisses the
environmental factor, but correspondingly plays up historical
factors in her land-use classification (I965: 15-16). Boserup's
five basic types of land use are arranged on her scale
exclusively by the degree of intensity of cultivation: from one
crop in ten or more years to more than one crop in a single
year. In a later publication she expands her list to six items
by including a pre-agricultural type: "Gathering of food - no
cultivation, all land 'fallow Iand'" (I 976: 25). 1 his
classification claims more than just general applicability.
Boserup believes her classification to be a sequential scale of
agricultural practice in a given setting, movement along
which is caused by changes in population pressure. The
appearance of anyone of these intensities of land use is
explained by Boserup in terms of population pressure and
labor efficiency.
The point of comparing these four land use classifications
and relating them to geographical typologies of agriculture is
two-fold. First of all, these attempts to bring order to the
agricultural systems of the world themselves clearly display
the immense variety of those systems. Moving beyond a mere
catalog of types, however, the four land use classifications
also represent attempts to explain the appearance of certain
agricultural systems in certain environments. But they are
radically different attempts and this despite the fact that
they all organize on the basis of land-use intensity.
The question of the differences between the explanatory
variables in the land-use classifications of von Thiinen, Allan,
Wolf, and Boserup may be answered in terms of perspective
and purpose. Von Thunen focusea narrowly upon an ideal city
and its environs in the early nineteenth century, Wolf on the
peasants' world and their struggle for sustenance, while Allan
explored exclusively African agriculture with the vital
concern of elucidating ways to increase native agricultural
production in areas of colonial administration. Boserup has

Hopkins.,. The Highiandsol Canaan

the gretitpopulationboornofthelast twoc:;:~nturies in nil

as shere~ches'for athe~ry. ~Ohel~fhart~g~icultural. gro
in •.•.•. :the '··<1~y~.loping ""\J.{()rt(j.~?(~tJ.dif;fer~nc:~;.:.go . <be}'
the .' WorJd'stigripultqre.itstHf ,"i!l. variety:whi.9llis'.detennl
analysis, above several parameters have come into vi~W:
IertiIity, )'cllrnate, Aocationahnfaetors, technology,
population pressure. And the list does not by any meanse
with these few. In order 'to understand and explain the grea{
variety-of agricultural systems the most essential question if
tbls:What parameters determine the shape 'of-a communitY'$
agricultural s y s t e m ? l

The parameters which determine the shape of agricultur

systems may be conveniently . grouped under three rubric
Population, Technology, and Environment. Since environrnentrjs
is the parameter most often cast in the decisive role, we
treat it first.

1. Environment

The' word\'environment" may be used in many ways, but

will be used below to refer exclusively to
environment. The factors of the cultural environment will
come only briefly into consideration. The basic elements
the environment which relate to agriculture are
(temperature, precipitation, and seasonality), soil,
tation, and topography (Ferdon 1951: 1). Two ",ltprt,"'1"hi••·,'/'
views of the importance of these environmental
in the formation of an agricultural system dominate sc!10]lar""'."f
ship past and present (Tatham 1957). The most
view sees environment as a limiting· factor setting the
of agricultural possibility. The natural world may set tar1gilble
limits on agricultural production and also chart the history
agriculture, especially the precocity of population
any one area. The most intensive agricultural regimes
be ruled out without the avallabilltyof abundant "UI'IJ','"''
water and a long growing season. Thus permanent cultivatioa
(annual or mulri-cropping) diminishes as a possibility as
environment becomes 'less optimal. On the other end of
spectrum, long" growing' seasons, humid climates, and
forest regeneration patterns are the essential prerequisites

Chapter 1\\0 - i~V'"'''' ~y sterns

the ..least intensive systems. Environments without such

characteristics clearly limit the application of the techniques
of;shiftingOong..fallow) cultivat ion.
tAmongthose who understand environment as a limiting
factor is H. C. Brookfield. Brookfield helpfully treats
environmental conditions "as : a series of constraints that
have the effect of providing 'threshold levels' of intensity
below which no continued cultivation is feasible." Based on
the observation that "many environments require special
treatment if they are to be made productive," Brookfield's
theorem postulates that the environment's limiting capacity
is muted by the ability of a given community to apply
"special treatments" 0972: 41-42; see also Tarrant 1974:
11-12). In theory, then, no environment absolutely limits
agriculture. In practical terms, however, technologically
simpler communities face real environmental challenges.
Their ability to meet these challenges and practice a stable
agriculture depends on other parameters of the system such
as technology and economic feasibility. Ferdon provides a
dear statement of the relationship between environment,
technological system, and economy:
it is not so much the natural environment as related to
agriculture that controls the limits to which a culture
IJl y I~
might achieve, but rather the cultural environment. The C-.j'h~
presence or absence of agricultural techniques, and the iZ~~d
cultural desire or the eccnon.lc need to use such
techniques to improve the natural environment, appear
to loom large in the agricultural development of a given
environmental situation (1959: 14).
To reject the absolute limitation of agriculture by
environment and to acknowledge the function of other
parameters in agricultural formation are implicitly to dismiss
a second extreme view that sees agriculture as determined
solely by environmental factors. But environmental
determinism takes a number of more subtle and carefully
nuanced forms which must also be dealt with. \\. Allan's
classification of agricultural types, for instance,
approximates a deterministic view since it makes agricultur-
al intensity soil specific (above, § A). Economist Esther
Boserup has attacked this idea which she associates with the
"fathers of traditional economic theory" who considered the
environment as an "immutable natural condition" (1965:
13).Boserup joins a growing number of natural scientists and
anthropologists who stress humanity's role in altering the

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

natural landscape, •. acIaim that. is . supported most con..;

vincinglybypalynological'records >of radical vegetation <
shifts which ac~ompaniedth7'erJ1e~genceof pastoralists ari<t:}
agriculturalists;(Smitil'andf¥oung;l972:" 46)., She >vie '
agricultural .. systems-Hess.vas•. • merefunctions.·.··of '.the··, e
vironment and more as phases .•. in "economic' .development.
related to population pressllre.Inherperspective, "soiF
fertility, instead of being treated as' an exogenous or
unchangeable 'initial condition' of the analysis, takes its
as a variable, closely associated with changes in pOipUJ.RLLon
density and related changes in agricultural . (1965:
13). Thus we are urged by Boserup to consider
environment has itself been shaped by the agricultural
systems which deal with it.
While Boserup'semphasis plainly supplies a
corrective to the traditional picture of agriculture as
primarily determined by geography and the environment, she
has gone too far in almost completely discounting the
physical "constrairrts : within which agricultural systems
evolve," and she has been consistently and soundly criticized
for this failing (Brookfield 1972: 34; Datoo 1978: 141; Grigg
1979: 77; Waddell 1972: 219). Examples where the envir-
onment has obviously had less significance in determining the
shape of agriculture cannot cause us to dismiss its general
significance. Rather, we must seek to determine the scope or
environmental limitation or determination of agricultural
systems: when are environmental factors most influential,
and when can environment be discounted and other
parameters elevated in importance?
From Turner, Hanham, and Portararo's in-depth study of
the interrelationship of agriculture, environment (including
crop type), and population density of a sample of twenty-nine
tropical subsistence cultivators we may adapt a simple
graphic representation of environmental conditions. The
environment may be viewed in this way in terms of a
"continuum of agricultural feasibility" (1977: 392).

....] 1

co0 =
.... - ='
_<: IU.•_
<: <:
marginal ....._ - .~ optimal

Fig. 1. Land quality variation.

Chapter 1\\'0 - i\gricultural "",,~.~rn~

Turner and his co-workers \1977: 392) list the following

qualities as characteristic of marginal and optimal lands:

marginal land optimal land

inundated well-drained
seasonally inundated gentle slopes
steep slopes high native fertility
poor native fertility short dry season
long dry season stable precipitation
erratic precipitation

The interpretation of this relationship is simple:

environmental influences are at their weakest at the center
of the spectrum where moderate conditions prevail. In such
situations the influences of other determinants of the shape
of agricultural systems will possess greater importance, and
the focus on environment as an explanatory agent need not be
as intense. While Turner and his collaborators were unable to
rest the effect of environmental influences on technology and
its role, one would expect, given Brookfield's hypothesis of
threshold levels, the importance of technology to parallel the
increasing marginality of the environment (Turner, Hanham,
and Portararo 1977: 395). According to Ferdon the influence
of the environment on agricultural productivity can be
viewed as "controlling in inverse ratio to the quality of the
agricultural technology possessed by the occupying culture"
(1959:1S). More marginal environments demand more
sophisticated and costly technology ana therefore limit the
feasibility of agriculture among technologically unadvanced
cultivators. Optimum areas demand no such technological
Care must be exercised, however, in envisioning a
too-strict relationship between the demands of the
environment and the satisfaction of those demands by an
agricultural community. In particular, the farmer's ability to
alter the environment should not be forgotten nor should the
fact that this alternation may be and has often been
deleterious. The degradation of the environment caused by
agricultural misapplication stands out as a feature of the
landscape throughout the world today. The assumption that
agriculture and environment are usually finely tuned can only
be labeled "ideal." Overly optimistic also is the assumption
that cultivators farm their environment with the consid-
eration of "continued," "viable," and "stable" agriculture
prominent in their motivations. Short-term rather than

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

long-term. considerations may Rromote' the formation a..

operation of agricultural systems not completely in balan
with their natural settings /6/.
If environment functions not as an absoluteCJeterrninef
agricultural systems,but sets minimum levels of "spe<:i
treatment" which "are required in order to create a "viabl
agricultural system, then we must turn our attention to the .
factors which determine the ability of a given community
occupying a given environment to meet its challenges. What
are the conditions under which a community is able to
achieve a necessary minimum intensity of agriculture with
its technological and economic demands?

2. Agricultural Technology

The technological side of agriculture has captured

center of attention in anthropological investigations since
their inception. This is not the place to review the history of
the technological parameter either in histories of civilization
or evolutionary typologies of agricultural practice. Key
concepts such as diffusion and innovation remain of vital
importance. Rather the questions which pertain most directly
to our inquiry into the role of technology in determining the
.,'1e- shape of agricultural systems are: What is meant by
agricultural technology; and to what extent may available
~ technology be considered a simple determinant of
agricultural systems?

a. Defining agricultural technology

"Agricultural technology" has been understood in both
broad and narrow terms. Robert Merrill defines technology
generally in the plural as "the cultural traditions developed in
human communities for dealing with the physical and
biological environment, including the human biological
organism" (I968: 577). He contrasts this definition with those
that more narrowly focus on craft and manufacturing or on
"material culture." The inadequacy of this narrow limitation
of agricultural technology to tools and techniques is apparent
from the many vital aspects of agricultural production that it
obscures. "Too narrow a definition of technology," Harris has
warned, "would blind one to some crucial aspects of how the
agricultural system as a whole works" (1972: 1&7). Among
these aspects one would surely number the social
organization whose vital roles are exemplified by those of
determination of land access and regulation of sowing and
Chapter Two - Agricultural Systems

harvest time. The list could be greatly extended. Robert

McC. Adams has phrased this understanding of technology in
a way which well evokes its :breadth: ''the acquisition,
processing, storage, distribution, and employment of raw
materials needed by a. society." He points out as well that
this definition reaches beyond the artifactual inventory
associated with the above-mentioned activities to "include
the planning and regulating techniques required for each
activity and for maintaining an ordered pattern of
interrelation between them" (cited by Spooner 1972: xxii; see
also Trigger 1968: 61). Environmental knowledge must also be
explicitly included within the confines of technology,
especially the ability to make judgments regarding site
selection and the innate or restored fertility of a plot of
ground. Such knowledge has proven to be "amazingly wide,
accurate and practical" even among primitive cultivators
(Netting 1977: 60). "The technical sector of the total
culture," remarks Netting (1968: 16), "embraces not only
tools and their use but also knowledge of soil potential, plant
characteristics, and construction techniques that are
important in satisfying physiological needs." It is worth
noting that in dealing with the agricultural technology of a
past society, the archaeological record will be silent about
these constituents since they leave no readily discernible
traces (Brookfield 1972: 32). The absence of this testimony
should not leave any less pronounced the fact that
agricultural technology, both past and present, is not
confined to the mere implements of cultivation, but en-
compasses other skills, both social and "scientific" which
affect a community's subsistence activities.
One final point remains to be made in definition of
agricultural technology. R. Merrill has called attention to the
"tendency to think of technologies as fixed sequences of
standardized acts yielding standardized results" (1968: 585).
Such a picture leads to an unrealistic assessment of the
productivity and technical competence of primitive know-
how. Because it freezes technique in static patterns of
activities with automatic results, this mold restricts not only
technological creativity but also the role of conscious c~~c,
experimentation both of which have appeared as essential
elements of pre-industrial agriculture (see Harris 1972: 188). 0"-~\;
Merrill's preferred definition of technology may serve to
conclude this section: "A more adequate concept to
technology is that it is a flexible repertoire of skills,
knowledge, and methods for attaining desired results and

k~lA0l~ -;- ~~a-\ '\l:1l~!k~(:rv0teJ,~
Hopkins -The Highlands of Canaan

av()idingfailures"ljndervarying circumstances" (196&: 5&5)

A determinant.of 9griculture?,,;i
Towh~t·'exteI1F~ay~vCl.ilablefEkhnologybe, consider
autonomous parameter of agricultural systems, ,if at all
addressing this question of Cintonomous "technology we do
intend to enter the" contemporary discussion of runa
technology, technology-cut-of-control, or the percei
problem of keeping social-structural pace with rap
advancing technology (see Winner 1977). Rather the quest
at hand, simply stated,' is whether there is a simple depend
relation between available technology and agricultu
systems. As we have already seen, some technologies may,
viewed as the minimum, requirement for cultivation in so
environments, and the 'importance of technological fact
increases with increasing ..environmental marginality.
however, does not reveal whether technology is the
determinant of agriculture above this minimum level
Consideration of" the" relationship
agriculture frequently involves the added factor
population. While we will discuss this question in or,,,;:,'~pf
/ detail below, an essential assumption of this
technology-agriculture triad merits attention at
juncture. The contributions of anthropologists and
archaeologists to the early history of civilization have often
been concerned to relate the growth of population
increases in food production brought about by technological
innovation. V. Gordon Childe's writings on the origins
agriculture and urbanization (the Neolithic and
revolutions) are the classical expression of this idea.
Childe's view the transition from hunting and gathering
agriculture "gave man control over his-own food supply"
thus removed thelirriits on population of the food gathering
community which had been "restricted in size by the
supplies available." Now food supply could be increased at
will, and, further, food production itself provided "an
opportunity and a motive for the accumulation of a surplus,"
which paved the way to the second or urban revolution (1951:
66-69, 82-83, 122-123). One cannot fail to note in Childe's
work a narrow focus on tool technology which excludes from
consideration how, for example, advances in social skills may
have contributed to the urban revolution (compare the similar
critique by Halligan 1975: 36-39). Instead, one finds that the
Chapter Two - i\gricuitural Systems

revolution was heralded by the invention of the plow, a

technological breakthrough of the first order whose many
translated . into "larger crops, more food, and
expanding population." Increasing leisure for the productlon
of .cultural goods accompanied the whole course of the
emergence of agricultural subsistence. For Childe the
importance of advancing agricultural technology lay not
merely in its ability to produce more food, but to produce it
with fewer hands, and thereby' free an increasingly large
portion of the population for non-agricultural pursuits.
One of the several assumptions underly ing this sketch is
that the advancing technology, especially tool technology and
methods, is more efficient and demands less labor than that
production system it succeeds. One need only think of the
assertions made regarding the increased productivity
permitted by the plow to see this assumption in operation
(Chi lde 1951: 122; Wolf 1966: 30). The adoption of the plow is
seen to proceed as a matter of course wherever it becomes
known since it can produce more with less labor. Yet however
sensible this claim for the plow may appear on the surface,
there is now substantial reason for questioning its general
accuracy, and this applies as well to similar claims made
about other advances in pre-industrial agricultural
technology. In general terms the question which must be
raised is this: Does labor efficiency (i.e., output per work
hour) decline or rise with advancing agricultural technology?
In opposition to the prevailing view among historians of
civilization and the classical economists, Esther Boserup has
argued an attractive case for the decline of labor efficiency
with increasing agricultural intensification (I965: 28-34, 4. 1).
She claims that agricultural output per work hour is more
likely to decrease than to increase when a given population in
a given territory changes its tools and methods in a process
of intensifying its agricultural system. The power of her
argument rests in her careful description of the tasks
required by each of the five types of agriculture in her
land-use classification. Forest fallow maintains the greatest
labor productivity: land clearing is a summary operation with
fire doing most of the work; soil preparation is unnecessary
and weeding negligible. The transition to bush-fallow involves
less time spent in clearing the bush, but the additional inputs
for howing and weeding add more to the total labor than is
saved by easier clearing. In the switch to short-fallow, even
before the inception of plow cultivation, more time is spent
in careful clearing of the plot, and soil preparation,

Hopkins .. The Highlands of Canaan

rpal'luring,atldwe.eding',al1 :addto,the'labor:requirement.'1h
to tat. labor required by. the; traction .plow system grows st'
higher;,;;jm;luding; nqt;onlyth~;afduous'Operationof the
itseU,bu'tiyear-roUflchcare for the draft animal s, Thee
to .•.. the.mosti.intensive;·.typesi.ofi.Jand .iiuse,. annual.La
multi-eropping, involvesincreasing ..inputs '.' for • •. f ertilizati
and espedaHy.land improvelueotsJe.g., irrigation syste
which.eventuateinJong hours of regular daily work.
Boserup's much' more detailed and nuanced descriptions
the Iabor.. .. requirements. of each land-use type clea
demonstrate that the cumulative effect of intensification
agricultural methods/is an increase in labor input. But
this increased labor input rewarded by at least
proportionate increase in yields? No, argues Boserup,the ne
effect of .agricultural intensification isa downturn in labo
productivity or.efficiency, a decrease in output per w
hour. As· intensification proceeds, demanded, for example,
the need for greater total food production, land is cropp
more frequently and fallow reduced with the result that soi
fertility is impaired. Yields decline, and the increased output
is threatened. In order to maintain the yields required for th~i
increased output, soil fertility must be protected, and this i~
accomplished by. increased inputs of labor for new practices
of weeding and fertilization and for other elements of the
intensive agricultural system. In Boserup's perspective the
additional labor input which accompanies agricultural
intensification is not viewed "as a means to raise crop yields
in order to produce additional food for the growing
population," but "as a means to prevent a decline of
yields despite the shortening of fallow" (I 965: '+ 1, ,+3).
increase in total output created by the intensification of
agricultural system is purchased at the cost of
output perwork hour and, thus, longer days in the fields.
Apart from this eltogether sound and fairly convincinz
descriptive and analytical argurnent,Boserup also
her claim with a statistical comparison of the
irrigated agricultural regimes of India and China which shows
that the average labor days per field unit involved in growing
different crops may be twice as high for intensive irrigated
agriculture as for dry (I 965: 39-lf;0). But this statistical
comparison is greatly limited and refers only to the transition
from dry to irrigated agriculture. Critics have rightly
perceived this weakness and have countered Boserup with
more extensive figures covering a wider range of agricultural
types including both cross-cultural and single-society samples

Chapter Two - l\gricultural Systems

(e.g., Bhatia 1968: 431; Sheffer 1971: 378; I..Jrigg 1979: 72).
Boserup's assertion that labor efficiency always declines with
increasingargicultural intensity cannot be supported from
these data which are at best inconclusive. The most detailed
analysis • to date reaches a parallel conclusion. Bronson
supplies a welter of data from a wide spectrum of cultures
and epochs which shows just the opposite of boserup's con-
tention: "shifting cultivation is not always, and perhaps not
usually, easier work than permanent field farming" (J 972:
191). He goes on, however, to question the worth of
cross-cultural comparisons and then turns his eye towarc a
measurement of the productivity of different agricultural
systems found among a single people. Data on maize farming
in highland Guatemala offer mixed signals with respect to
Boserup's claim. "Long and bush fallowing seerr. to be equally
productive, while short fallowing is inferior to the other two.
But none of the shifting regimes are a match for annual
cropping from the standpoint of labor efficiency" (bronson
1972: 194). Bronson will not dismiss Boserup's claim
completely, however, but argues only for the in-
appropriateness of generalizing about relative labor
productivity in agricultural regimes of varying intensities.
On the basis of this discussion, it is clear that neither the
inclusive claim that the advancing technology associated with
intensive agricultural production consumes proportionately
more labor than it delivers output nor blind assertions about
productive bonanzas provided by technological innovation can
be fashioned into hard and fast rules. Thus neither provides
the key to illustrate fully the relationship between
technology and agricultural systems. The availability of more
advanced agricultural technology cannot be said with
confidence to constitute a "pull" towards its use in intensified
agriculture. If the employment of an advanced technology in
an intensive agricultural regime represented a more easy
method of production, requiring fewer hours of labor, then
the choice of one such technological system from among
others would be readily understandable. If such a system were
actually more arduous and produced less per work hour than
one of lower intensity employing less advanced technology,
and this must be held out as a clear possibility in many cases,
then its acceptance would only be explained by the pressure
of other, highly persuasive forces. Claims for the simple
dependence of agriculture on technology fall to the ground
with this conclusion.
We must consider briefly one further point involved in our

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

conception of agricultural technology. Often "high"

technology as the major parameter of agricultural
also treat}t as anautonomousparameter~one (h~vE~lopeCil
independently of the system into which it is then ;nT'por",,-t_fii
The mechanism for the introduction of
given fanning community is that of-diffusion, and
importance is attributed to the cultural environment.
conceptual world is well described by Philip E. L Smith:
Most archaeologists have tended, implicitly or otherwise,
to assume that agricultural systems were rather stable
and fixed, the reflections of variables like soils, '-U,llla "::::,
topography and cultural preferences. Thus we
usually accepted that shifting cultivators would remain
shifting cultivators until they were impinged upon
groups practising more intensive methods, when the
advantages of new technological aids would become
apparent and quickly adopted (I972a: 13).
Joining Smith in attacking this idea, Netting has argued
comparative ethnographic evidence now suggests
agricultural techniques "need not be diffused from a few
centers of cultural innovation but may be developed to meet
localized needs" (I977: 67; compare the clear example of the
development of mounding practices in New Guinea described
by Waddell 1972: 291). Thus while there are clear cases where
the diffusion of crops and innovations in tool technology and
the rapid transformation of agriculture are correlated, we
cannot conclude that this is a functional correlation in which
an autonomous technology has been the chief agent. We must
conclude with Netting that "the processes of agricultural
change cannot be referred solely to technological innovation"
(1974: 24).

3. Population

a. Dependent or determinant?
Population has been viewed both as a completely dependent
variable and a completely independent parameter of
agricultural systems. The former view has been the most
prevalent. We have already noted the widespread tendency to
relate population growth to increases in food production
brought about by technological innovation. Along these lines,
Philip E. L. Smith remarks that among most branches of
anthropology "an increase in population is nearly always seen
axiomatically as a consequence of enlarged food resources or
Chapter Two - Agricultural Sv:,tprns

of new means of extraction" (1972b: 410). Underlying this

approach are the two assumptions that population growth can
be stimulated only by a surplus of food and that the
availability of such a surplus depends upon technological
innovation. Stated in reverse, population growth is limited by
available food resources which are limited by the
productivity of available technology.
The classical expression of this view of the limitation of
population by agricultural productivity is associated with the
name of Mal thus, Published in 1798, Mal thus' Essay on the
Principle of Population argued that population, when
unchecked, would increase at a geometrical rate, compared
to possible arithmetic subsistence increases. Since humanity's
absolute dependence upon food cannot be abrogated, the
effect of these differing rates of growth "implies a strong
and constantly operating check on population from the
difficulty of subsistence" (Appleman 1976: 20). In other
words, population growth is governed by the relative
inelasticity of food production.
The dominance of the 1vlalthusian picture of the
dependence of population growth on increased agricultural
production has receded in recent years before the growing
awareness of the importance of demographic influences on
societal change. Thus in an important article, Dumond argues
that while anthropologists often treat population size as
a mere dependent of culture "population growth is not a
simple effect of cultural change but is both a cause and
effect of that change" (1965: 302). Similarly, agricultural
economist Colin Clark presents a highly positive view of
population growth as the "cause" of cultural change,
specifically agricultural change. Starting from the standpoint
of Malthus that population will increase up to the limits of
food resources, Clark suggests that it is population growth
that stimulates agricultural intensification:
The time comes, of course, when population growth does
threaten to overtake the "means of subsistence," as they
are understood in that time and place; and then the
consequence is that population growth itself provides the
necessary stimulus, inducing the community to change
its existing methods of producing or obtaining food for
more productive methods, which will enable it to support
a larger population (1967: 60).
A further step along this line is taken by Ester Boserup who
elevates the status of population from dependent variable to

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

autonomous parameter of agricultural systems. At the center

of the .subtle and complex .arguments that Boserup employs
to "supPOrtherthesis>,that', "the growth;of population is a
major'determinantohtecnno10gica1. change in agriCulture?'
standsher,generaHzedc1aimthat labor productivity ,. declines
with Increasingagrlcultural .intensification' (I 965: 56).' Since
intensive agriculture is more arduous and produces less per
work hour, then intensification would only take place when
increased production is demanded by increased population
which in turn satlsfies.ithe need for an enlarged labor pool
/7/•. We, have already seen, however,. that Boserup's
generalization about declining labor productivity with
increasing agricultural intensification is not supported by the
available data. Yet this does not spell the end to Boserup's
picture of the population parameter /8/. Regardless of how
the studies of this set of problems deal with Boserup's thesis
of declining labor productivity, rarely do they dispute the
assertion that more intensive systems require absolutely
more labor input than do less intensive systems (Grigg 1979:
71). Bracketing, then, the question of the efficiency of
agricultural labor, Boserup's clear discussion of the labor
requirements of different agricultural systems has persuaded
many (above, § B~ z.s). Thus Netting refers to Boserup when
he writess., "Terrace building and elaborate ridging,
maintaining domestic animals for manure, careful hoeing and
weeding, transplanting, multicropping, water control and
conservation all involve more working hours than
slash-and-burn field preparation" (1969: 106). Even Bronson
who is otherwise critical of Boserup, subscribes to this
correlation of high labor input and intensive agriculture
(1972: 216).
Consideration of this factor of the total labor requirement
of a farming system also supports the conclusion that the
possibility of intensive agriculture does not in itself lead to
the intensification of agriculture. The issue of the
availability of 1abor,that is, population, must first be
addressed. Thus while it cannot be maintained that all
intensive agricultural systems are less labor efficient than
their extensive counterparts, the fact that they demand
absolutely more labor input would discourage their adoption
unless an increase in total production was demanded by the
farming community which could supply an increased amount
of labor. Agricultural systems cannot be abstracted from the
communities in which they must realistically function.
We . can approach this problem .frorn another direction.
Boserup's emphasis on population parameter has been
Chapter Two - Agr icuitutal sterns

accepted by some in the form of its basic premise. This

premise can be stated as follows: "subsistence farmers are
labor efficient and will choose the intensity of cultivation
that will satisfy their agricultural needs with the least
amount of work" (Turner, Hanham, and Porrararo 1977: 384).
Despite the unfortunate choice of words, we are no longer
concerned with the efficiency of labor in this restatement,
but rather with an attitude concerning labor: the desire to
hold it at a minimum. In the terms of this reformulation,
"agricultural need satisfaction with minimum work," the
question of relative labor efficiency moves into the
background as the question of total labor input is highlighted.
If we may assume in general that cultivators will seek to
satisfy their agricultural community's needs with a relatively
smaller rather than a relatively larger input of labor, then
this formulation can go some distance in explaining the
behavior of agriculturists and in directing our attention to
the importance of population in determining agricultural
Implicit in this argument is the so called "law of least
effort." Care must be taken to specify precisely what is and
is not meant by this idea and to define the boundaries of its
applicability. The law of least effort as it is used here does
not intend to claim that agricultural communities structure r.
their labor inputs to maintain the "minimum subsistence level o-.Ji
compatible with maximizing leisure" (debunked by Grigg R)>>!~
1979: 77). Nothing is asserted about the farmer's view of
agricultural labor, and no claim about indolence is made "'C~"'*\ \
(contrast Boserup 1965: 54 who makes such an assertion). !'iL< "-',
Rather we are supporting the assertion that the behavior of Al"(....."
agriculturalists is economic in the sense that it recognizes
the facts of return to total labor. As Ruthenberg has
observed, "from a farmer's point of view, labor productivity
and work rationalization are considerations of great
importance, not only because labour is a major input, but
because its use is the subject of acute personal experience"
(1976: 26). Other things being equal, an agricultural
community will choose a system of agriculture that conserves
labor rather than one which wastes or multiplies labor while
it satisfies the agricultural needs of the community.
An unlimited application of this idea as the primary factor
in the choice of an agricultural system would be misguided.
Bennet Bronson has produced a two-fold critique of the "law
of least effort" that calls for caution in this regard. First,
Bronson points out that work has no cross-culturally accepted
meaning and, thus, that the application of the idea of "least
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

effort" encounters defin.~tional.• problems.O 912: .199).

considered work in onesosiety(timedevotea t?a. task
physical. expenditure?f labo~,.sush~fact?rs~~ar~frequeri
I measured and reportedby.~thn?grapners).m~Y' be of.·
consequence in another. second,B~onson ~rgues in ~?
concrete terms that other- motives for agricultural behavi
may be active and as strongi~ not stronger than the tenden
towards work minimization. Bronson discusses severalCl
these other motives among which are: (I) security factor
"farmers are more interested in minimizing risk
minimizing work," (2) economic factors: the regional econonl'ji:.:@&~·• ··1
may dictate the kind of crop planted, (3) cultural
people may have rigid food preferences and also nr."f~·rp·nrp"
for a particular type of agricultural system
economic costs (1972: 200-201). Bronson concludes
of these considerations are not only influential in subsistence"
decisions but quite capable of overriding the natural desire
minimize work" (1972: 202). Thus in addition to considering
the choice of any agricultural system from the standpoint of
returns to total labor, we must also include these other
motives of agricultural behavior in our estimate ofa
community's struggle to . meet its agricultural needs.
more explicit these other motives can be made, the more we
will be able to understand any lessening in the importance of
the basic consideration of total labor requirement.

b. Population densi ty and agricultural intensity

Whether supported by an unwarranted claim about relative
labor efficiency or by a more realistic consideration of the
importance of total labor requirement in determining
agricultural intensity, emphasis on the population parameter
of agriculture leads to the hypothesis of a correlation
between population density and agricultural intensity.
Because of the increased labor demanded by intensive
agriculture, Boserup maintains that tithe .cultlvator would find
it profitable to shift to a more intensive system of land use
only when a certain density of population has been reached"
(I965: 41). Because of higher labor demand, intensification of
agriculture is sufficiently discouraged until the food
demanded by increasing population can no longer be supplied
by the traditional system of land use. At some critical level
of population density the switch to more intensive agriculture
escapes the diminishing returns to labor associated with the
older system, and more hands may become profitably engaged
in producing the necessary output.
Chapter Two - f\gncultural Systems

A number of studies has attempted to demonstrate the

worth of Boserup's correlation of population density and
agricultural intensity (see Barlett 1980: )53 for a substantial
bibliography). Among the studies which offer support for the
correlation is Hanks' comparison of population density among
twelve rice-growing regions in Southeast Asia. Hanks found
that communities practicing shifting cultivation averaged 31
persons per square mile while the population densities
associated with the more intensive broadcasting and most
intensive transplanting regimes were an average of 255 and
988 persons per square mile respectively (I972: 57). Hanks'
comparison of population density, yields, labor requirements,
and input/output ratios for various intensities of cultivation
places him squarely in Boserup's camp in respect to this
matter: "Each mode of cultivation is appropriate to a scene
of varying population with differing economic command and
varying availability of land" (I 972: 68). Most thorough and
convincing is the study of Turner, Hanham, and Portararo
(977) which statistically analyzes and compares twenty-nine
groups of tropical subsistence cultivators. This study employs
advanced mathematical techniques to concentrate on the
relation between population density and agricultural intensity
and also factors in the variable qualities of subsistence base
of each group and of the environment (e.g., crop type and
climate). The findings manifest: "a strong positive relationship
exists between population density and agricultural intensity" ~
among the study group (I977: 395). The statistical correlation
is enhanced when additional subsistence base and environ-
mental factors are added to the mathematical mix.
This correlation has not been universally upheld, however. ~('~
While both Grigg (I979: 72-77) and Netting (I977: 71) report I"
lists of studies which support the "gross correlation," both
sound the same cautionary note concerning its unequivocal
acceptance. Grigg raises important questions concerning the
measurement of population density and areal extent of
agriculture and the calculation of land-use intensity, noting
that a complex mix of intensities often prevails (I979: 73).
Thus this Boserupian correlation is not without problems.
Grigg (I 979: 73) concludes that attempts to demonstrate it.
have been unsuccessful, while Netting leaves the door open a
crack by allowing that "the lines of causation and the role of
other factors are still unclear" (1977: 71).
The presence and significance of "other factors" frustrates
a simplistic correlation between population density and
agricultural intensity. An agricultural community's needs are

Hopkins ... The Highlands of Canaan

seldom, if ever,.exc1usive:ly:sllPsis'tencenee<ts~·andnQneo
To expect. a neat corJelationbe;tw/:enpoPulationan<:i . ,ag
those which are .dir:ectly related ·,.to,popUlatiorh,B.A.;
among others. has pointed to this understanding of produ
as limited to use asa major 'deficiency Qithe jthesisH
139). Taking this narrow-focus-on subsisteece-productiond
consideration may make an observed lack of correlati
between population density.· and agricultural intens'
comprehensible, ,sincethe.presence of any ,. production
specifically related to filling mouths and meeting subsist
needs of a population would.throw off the equation.
In his analysis of this question for Pacific.sccieties.H.•
Brookf ieldbas distinguished, threeidifferent classes.'
production, which can help systematize . our . picture of
total needs of an c agricultural 'community. These
subsistence production, social production, and t
production (I972: 38). Brookfield defines subsistence
duction as lithe narrower sense of 'production for use' me
ing production for autoconsumptionby the grower,
family, and immediate associates" (1972: 3&). To make d
that this subsistence production represents more than just~·
basic minimum for •short-term nourishment, it must c' be
emphasized that it includes as well the creation of a ''normal:
surplus" which fanners produce as insurance against crop
failures and the vagaries of climate and history (Allan 1965:
38-48). Brookfield considers this "level of subsistence nee<.f:~
as a 'surface' which has close orthornorphism with the surfas~
of population density" JI972: 38). Superimposed upon this .i~s
the surface of social needs which social production mu~
satisfy. This would comprise "goods produced for the use~t
others in pre station, ceremony and. ritual and hence haYi~
primarily social purpose " (Brookfield 1972: 44). bronson war~
us not to construe the. category of prestation (obligatod
performance) too technically, for political inducementtp
production is present in less stratified as well as highl¥
stratified societies. Since the essence of prestation is that
"the inducers do not propose to do the extra worJ<
themselves," any society in which this separation between th~
decision makers and .the laborers exists may be home for
production stimulated for non-subsistence purposes (I97~
200-201). The final class of productionis production for tra~~
which like the others may -be more or less developed in/~
given society. Trade secures, through cash sales. or, bartee

Chapter Two - Agricultural Systems
~J:~. immediately unavailable goods (Brookfield ! 972; 38). The
growth of such-exchange is often associated with the growth
iiiofurban . demandr but is dearly a widespread phenomenon
~X(Grigg 1979: 75).
tr To the extent that all these elements of social and trade
e, production are:keptat a minimum (as perhaps in some
.. egalitarian, self-sufficient societies), the relationship
between subsistence needs and population may be strong. In
principle, however, it is the total needs of the community and
not just its subsistence needs which determine production. As
a substitute for the term of population density in Boserup's
correlation with agricultural intensity, Brookfield has
suggested the "total pressure of needs on resources" (I 972:
44). B. Datoo has followed Brookfield to the same conclusion:
"Clearly, the determinants of different purposes of
production - for instance, population density in the case of
subsistence production and societal stratification in that of
social production - are all potential parameters of the
system" (1978: 140). The presence of any of these additional
determinants of different purposes of production in a given
community will force an increase in the scale of production
and may account for an intensification of production beyond
what subsistence alone would appear to warrant. Given the
presence of persuasive forces the demand for greater
non-subsistence production may be met by an intensive
agriculture operated uneconomically by a less dense
population than one would expect. From another perspective,
the consideration of a given people's ability to operate an
agricultural system must take seriously the presence of
production requirements above those of mere subsistence:
input and output must be balanced in an overall picture of a
community's agricultural needs.
We have been addressing the synchronic aspect of the
correlation between population density and agricultural
intensity; that is, can this correlation predicted by attention
to the labor requirements of intensive agriculture be
substantiated by observable practice? There remains yet the
diachronic aspect of this question to consider. If a population
reaches a certain critical level of density or pressure of
needs on resources, will it turn automatically to an in-
tensification of its agricultural system?
If we control all the other parameters of an agricultural
system while allowing its population to increase and pressure
on resources to build, can we be certain that environmentally
possible intensification would result? The answer to this

f Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

question, both historically and theoretically, must be !

Other consequences of population growth, other responsestq
its challenge exist. The most obvious response to increasing
population pressure is emigration, "both.' Hterallya'
! figuratively .a 'wayout'ofthe problem (Smith and You
1972: 17). Among other possible alternatives to agriculture]
intensification under the pressure of population growth may
be population control itself, an assertion which seems-rathee
strange in a world where advanced means of birth control
seem barely adequate to the task. Primitive population
control and its techniques (e.g., infanticide and delayed
marriage) are coming under increasing study, however (see
the literature cited by Baker and Sanders 1972: 166-167; Grigg
1979: 76). The development of rural industries which are able
to absorb the extra supply of labor in productive employment
would represent another non-agricultural response to
population pressure (Grigg 1979: 76), as would arrneds
expansionist conflicts with neighboring communities (Smith
and Young 1972: 17).
Whatever the response, it may be inadequate and
over-population may result, the effects of which are felt
both the environment and the community.
may lead to over-exploitation of the environment. For
example, overgrazing and the destruction of
coupled with destructive soil erosion are a regular feature
the past and all too common in the present as well. (See
below, Ch. 5, §C). Overpopulation brings with it undernour-
ishment and starvation as well as massive social turbulence,
landlessness, and unemployment. Rising mortality, as
measured by paleodemographers for example, may have the
inadequate response of a past community to burgeoning
population as one of its root causes (compare Angel 1972: 99).
This list of. possible responses to population growth-
emigration, population control, the development of rural
industries, military expansion, and inadequate measures
leading to overpopulation and its concomitants malnutrition,
social turbulence, and environmental damage - supplies
additional avenues which must be explored in order to
understand fully the relationship between population and
agricultural system in any community.

C. Summary

This review of the three basic parameters of agricultural

systems reveals the complex nature of agricultural systems

Chapter Two - .A.griculturai Systems

and demonstrates that they cannot be viewed as s irnply

determined by any single factor. The operation of certain
agricultural . systems is limited by certain environmental
constraints, but this limitation is muted by the presence of
certain. technologies. Yet technologies cannot be understood
as "dei ex'machina" and depend in turn on economic
feasibility which in the pre-industrial world is mostly a
matter of labor supply. The relation of available labor supply
to population is clear, but not straight-forward. The
existence of factors which influence the acceptance of
greater per capita labor burdens adds a significant modifier
to this relation as well. Robert Netting introduces his
description of agricultural practice with these words: "Type
of food production vary tremendously, and the complex
interaction of climate,land, technology, population, settle-
ment pattern, work group composition, food consumption, and
rights to the means of production is little understood" (1977:
The complexity of food production aside, several key
learnings of direct importance to the characterization of
early Iron Age Highland agriculture deserve to be
high-lighted. The view of the environment as a relative
quantity alongside other parameters of agriculture stands
out. The tendency of previous studies has been to paint the
demands of the Highland environment in absolute terms, ones
which dictated the shape of agricultural systems. A whole
series of possibilities was thereby obscured, not the least of
which was an exploitation of the environment based primarily
on short-term considerations. It may well be that the settlers
of the early Iron Age did not create agricultural systems that
were at equilibrium with their Highlands environments,
The broader definition of technology also deserves mention
here. If our task of describing and analyzing early Iron Age
agriculture were to focus merely upon tools and techniques,
far less than a full picture could be sketched. In particular it
will emerge that social institutions and skills played a
decisive role in agricultural subsistence.
Finally and most consequentially stands the role of
population in shaping agricultural systems. The serious
neglect of demography in biblical studies impels us to give
special consideration to the impact of population growth in
moulding the agricultural life of the settlers of the early Iron
Age. A proper understanding of the place of labor supply in
pre-industrial farming systems demands it. Certain ag-
ricultural strategies may have been beyond the reach of

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

Highlands settlers given;;their •demographic- situation. Other

strategies mayhilYe been all the more attractive for. the
same-reasons, Wbat~s. paramount is an examination of .just
wl1a.t that sitllaliQQ .was. Nostudyof farming in the early Iron
~e Highlands t~tfa.Hs.,Je..reckcn .with the jransformatlen.ef
the,populatic)I) landscape-that.took place at this . time cal)
hope to present an .accurate picture of agricultural
The consideration of the general nature of agricultural
systems and their parameters has defined the channels in
which .thefollowing examination of agriculture in the early
Iron Age Highlands must flow. \\Ie will begin with a
description of the physical environment, climate, vegetation,
and soils of this region. Next the population landscape of the
early Iron Age will .be drawn and characterized with respect
to its significance .for an assessment of the intensity -of
agricultural systems. and . their operation. From a con-
sideration of its physical and demographic landscapes, the
basic challenges confronting the farming communities of the
Highlands and their technological responses to them will then
be described. The discussion of Highland agricultural
technology will thus be organized on the basis of agricultural
objectives and the strategies adopted to achieve them,



Slountains of Scie.

Chapter Three


A. Introduction

HE Highlands of Canaan are formed by a low

mountain range which runs spine-like down the
center of Palestine. The mountains represent a
somewhat stunted "continuation of the Arnanus-
Lebanon range that begins at the Northeast cor-
ner of the Mediterranean Sea ••• [and] ends in the Sinaitic
Peninsula" (McCown 1962: 630). The Highlands took their
basic shape in a warping movement of the Lower Miocene
which ended the hegemony of the Tethys Sea which had
deposited the bulk of the sedimentary rocks now exposed on
the surface (e.g., Eocene and Senonian chalks and Turonian
and Cenomanian limestones). The Miocene uplifting of the
granitic platform was accompanied by folding of the softer
sedimentary rocks on its back and also some faulting.
The folded structures are best preserved in the arid Negev
where five folds running in a southwest-northwest direction
are discernable, The Highlands of Judea are laid out around a
broad arch which provides sites for Hebron, Bethlehem,
Jerusalem, and Bethel. Three parallel folds, again angled to
the northeast, dominate the Samarian center of the
Highlands: Jebel Kebir which runs well east of Shechem and
forms part of the Gilead region from which it is separated by
the Jordon rift, Umm el-Fahrn (the Iron Hills) slicing between
the valley of Dothan and Megiddo, and Mt Carmel, standing
as an isolated block overlooking the sea. North of the
expansive Jezreel valley, the folding structure of Galilee has
been nearly effaced by intensive faulting, though a primary
upfold reigning over parallel secondary folds and running
north-south is recognizable (Orni and Efrat 1973: 53).
A final significant tectonic movement of the Upper
Pliocene was responsible for a great intensification of
faulting begun earlier. Numerous grabens, created by sub-
sidence of fault-fissured blocks, and horsts, created by the

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

tilting or lifting of blocks, appeared. "The last great uplift

the Upper Pliocene landscaped most of the country's regio
(Orni and Efrat 1973: 11, 53; and Baly 1957: 31-32).
The landscape artistry of this tectonic movement render
an exceedingly complex canvas. The larger region Was
through not only by a . deepened rift valley and paral
north-south faults, but by many transversal faults as we
"Faulting features become more prominent from south
north, until they constitute the dominant landscape eleme
in Galilee" (Orni and Efrat 1973: g). baly (1957: 27-29)
divided Palestine into three latitudinal zones from north
south: the Zone of Greater Complexity, the Zone of Relat
Simplicity, and the Zone of Reversed Tendencies. The are
Judea is the least fractured topographically of the (iighl
major divisions, yet even it is dissected by crosscut
faults, especially west of Jerusalem, and the down fa .
valley of Ajalon marks the northern boundary of there
Samaria is scarred by a large, number of transversal fa
and downfaulted basins. Its faults run in three directi
from north to south, from west to east, and from northw
to southeast. The three Samarian upfolds are clipped by
great faults of the valleys of Zebulon, Jezreel, and Harod
that "all that remains today is a huge wedge of higher la@
pointing toward the northwest and reaching the sea at
Carmel" (Baly 1957: 28, 37). Galilean fault-formes'
topography is the most complex. Along with Samaria, it bears
faults running in three different directions, though a
significantly greater number so that its folds "are more
less obliterated by the predominance of faulting"
1971: 220).
B. The Regions

In conjunction with non-tectonic forces, this folding and

faulting of Highland Canaan have created a mosaic of fairly
well geographically defined regions and subregions. Each of
these subregions, of course, contains any number of niches
(e.g., basins, wadi beds, hilltop plateaus, etc.), often quite
diverse and distinct, which constitute the loci of settlement
and exploitation. The larger picture is one aptly described by
the term "variegated." (See Map 1 [p.324].)

1. The Negev Highlands

The southernmost reach of the mountain massif of Canaan

is the Negev Highlands. The deep canyon of the Nahal Zin

Chapter Three - Geomorphology

region into two subregions: the Northern Negev

Centralp.jegev Hills. The northern border of the
Northern-Neaev Hills <is formed by the intermontane basins
Arad which are separated by the Ira spur
northward into the eastern fold of the Hebron
The Northern Negev plateau trails off
progressively to the west where sand dunes form the
transitional zone to the Negev plains. The Dead Sea region
and the Arabah drop off at the eastern border.

a. Northern Negev Hills

The Northern Negev hills consist of a series of
asymmetrical folds with its axis angled to the northeast. The
alternClting anticlinal ridges and synclinal troughs of the five
folds are quite pronounced in an area little affected by
erosion or tectonic faulting. The anticlinal ridges are at their
highest in the center of the region, attaining 700m. Toward
the west and northwest the elevations progressively decline,
and the passage from the hills to the plains is a gradual one
consisting in broad wadis and wide, level spurs. In the
desolate southeast, the drop to the Arabah is steep.
The most prominent features of the region are two cirques,
"hamakhtesh hagadol" and "hamakhtesh haqatan," whose
production is usually explained as a particular effect of
erosion in desert conditions. The cirques lay bare a geological
panorama of ancient rock strata stretching in places even
down to the Jurassic. The superficial rock of the region as a
whole presents a simple distribution picture: the harder
limestones of the Cenomanian and Turonian periods dominate
the anticlinal ridges while Senonian and Eocene chalks have
been preserved in the synclinal troughs. Erosion has not
played a preponderant role in landscaping the region although
most of the many wadis that drain the watershed both to the
east and (more so) to the west are erosional. "The width and
depth of their courses bear out the assumption that they were
carved in the pluvial geological periods" (Orni and Efrat 1973:

b. Central Negev hills

The Nahal Zin separates the Northern Negev Hills from
their high southern neighbor, the Central Negev Hills (also
called the High Negev). Bordered on the east by the Arabah,
the south by the fault line from which the Arif ridge ascends,
and trailing off into Sinai in the form of two tilted plateaus,

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

the: Central Negev'Hlllsis'aige<)logical. str?cture

cornple~i~y.'··T\Vo.·••. bro~d . par~Jf~Isfolds,}':the.·.Arif and •·
Ramon,;whi,cn·.~r~divided}br.'a ;~arrowsyn<~Hnat trough.·
diss~cted~ynumerousfaults;;onstitute its core. The Ra
fold extends all the way from Kade~hBarneato·the heig
overlooking the Arabah (7Okm) and dominates the Iandscal
with some peaks exceedinglOOOmand many ascending'
more than 900m. It is incised well over half of its lengthb
the Makhtesh Ramon, an erosional cirque larger (40 x IOkrn)
and more complex than the similar craters in the Northern
Negev Hills,
North of the northern rim of the Makhtesh Ramon, th
mountains begin their descent. On the west of Mizpe Rarnq
which sitsat the center of the rim, the hills descend in fit~
series of high altitude. scarps and cuestas), eventually slop
down to the lower plateau of Kadesh.Barnea and the basin
Nizzana, North of Mizpe Ramon, the descent·,
less-towering hills is more steady and gentle to the wide a
level plains between Nahal Nizzana and Nahal Zin, T
superficial rock of this plateau of approximately 2000 sq
is mostly Eocene limestone and chalks. T
Cenomanian-Turonian limestones are exposed on the Ram

2. The Judean Highlands

The Highlands of Judea are divided into three quite rlic,1-ir,r1-

subregions: the central anticline of the Judean Hills and
synclinal structures to its west and east: the Shephelah
the Judean Desert. The longitudinal borders between
regions are a product of both tectonic and nOln-1:ec:tolnA~:.y.}.
forces. On the east the Judean Desert is constituted
steep drop of the hills to the Rift Valley and the Dead
the north the desert's border appears intermittently as a
of Cenomanian limestone, but is known
throughout its entire length by the increase in aridity caused
by the rain-shadow effects of the rapid decline in altitude
the Rift Valley. On the west the border between the .JUCJCCU'
Hills and the Shephalah (literally, foothills) is indicated il
the appearance of a narrow strip of Senonian ~~,-..., .'. C
accompanied usually by a line of fairly steep b
Each of these subregions also presents a variegated terrain. n
a. The Judean H1l1s C
In contrast to the Negev Highlands, the morphology of
Chapter Three -Geomorphology

Judean Hills has been quite strongly shaped by non-tectonic

forces, ,~speciallytheerosionalforcesof its more abundant
1~" share;0:1·precipitatiQn. .N> .' . a result, one of the main
topographic features is.l'the many interfluves (i.e., ridge-like
mountail}'lllS"spursseparated .by deeply incised valleys)
extending mainly westward" (Schattner 1971: 139). Despite
the pervasive effect of this steam erosion at their margins,
the Judean Highlands are a compact mountain range,
containing few isolated mountain blocks with intervening
valleys. The range extends from its southern border with the
Negev Highlands some 80km. Its rounded crest varies in
width between 15 and 25km while maintaining an elevation of
705m. Its peaks exceed 1000m, the loftiest being Mt Halhul
near Hebron (1020m); at l016m, Baal Hazer near Bethel is
also prominent.
The northern border between the Highlands of Judea and
Samaria is not sharply defined geologically. McGown suggests
the border is marked by "a gradual increase of barrenness and
rocky terrain" toward JUdah (1962: 631), but this is hardly a
secure notion. More secure is Yehuda Karmon's view that the
boundary between these two physiographically distinct
regions lies "in that area where the typical feature of
Samaria - the interior basins - occurs farthest south, i.e., in
the valley of Shilo (Turrnus Aiyi)" (1971: 317-318). The course
of Nahal Shilo fixes the border between these regions to the
west, and the El Fasayil wadi performs a similar function to
the east. Above this point the axes of the Samarian anticlines
turn perceptively from the almost north-south trend of the
Judean fold to a southwest-northeast trend.
Viewed in terms of altitude the Judean Hills present a
tripartite structure. The Hebron Hills in the south and the
Bethel Hills in the north are both higher by lOO-200m than
the central Jerusalem Hills which form a saddle between
them. Other features, especially the erosional topography,
combine to distinguish these three subregions.
The Hebron Hills. By far the greatest in areal extent,
covering more ground than the other two subregions
combined, the Hebron Hills are divided in their lower reach
into the Adoraim and Eshtaemoa ranges by the broad valley
of the Nahal Hebron (which drains them into the Beersheba
basin to the southwest). From just south of Hebron where
they constitute a single crest, these two ranges take the
shape of elongated spurs which slip down to the south and
constitute a transition zone to the basins of Beersheba and
Arad, In contrast, the western margin of the Hills consists of

Hopkins ',.. The Highlands of Canaan

a mono<:::linal1escarpment'with,>asteep vertical
sometim~s?:greater;than,400m.Because Of, this
declivitY;i!Qe. ~treamswl1ich"drain., the Hebroo'Hills
west \hav~,,'Cut deeply::incised, . v-sha.pedvalleys. with
spurs "be~\Veen'. thenr'(Karmol1·· '.·1971: .329). .The crest
forms ..abroad plateau :.' which ···is·· .pocketed . by ····se
depressions of karsticorlgtn of which the largest is the
Berakh, north of' Hebron.
The Jerusalem Saddle. Traveling north from Hebro
southern boundary' of the Jerusalem Saddle- is met
Valley of Arras, location of the Pools of Solomon. The
originating in this valley flows just south of Herodium t
its outlet in the Dead Sea (Karrnon 1971: 329). North 0
border,the plateau-like core of the Judean Highlan
distinguished by a drop in elevation and by an accornpan
conspicuous widening of the crest to. the east and,"
notably, to the west. Far from topgraphically smo
however, the Jerusalem Saddle is strongly dissected. Drai
to the east, the Nahal Qidron issues from the heart
Jerusalem •. itself; above it the Har HaZofim-Har E
interfluviaLridgetowers over the city and forms
unmistakable border with the .Judean Desert. The tributa
of the Waddi Mukollek and the Wadi Qelt form narrow val
and even canyons as they drop from the eastern flank of t
Saddle parallel to and north of its center city. Nahal Sof
and Nahal Ayalon, the main drainage routes to the west,a
fed by a score of tributaries (N. Refa'irn and N. Kesalon are
the main branches of the Soreq whose upper reach flo
beneath Ein Kerem; N. Nahshon is the main branch of
Ayalon which itself stretches through the valley of the sa
name which cut through the plateau up to the rim of t
anticline in a battery of deep valleys of varying widths.'
distinct from the erosive streams of the Hebron and Be
Hills, however, those of the Jerusalem Saddle do
generally converge in the hills, but in the narrow strip"
Senonian chalk that separates the mountain region fromt
Shephalah, For this reason, the intervening interfluves a
longer, more gently sloped, and "form continuous spurs whl
enable a fairly easy ascent from the coastal plain to
mountain" (Karman 1971: 327). The valleys of the strea
themselves are predominantly v-shaped with no acco
panying flood plain, except at the heads of the valle
in the mountains which open up considerably. (Note .e
pecially the upper reaches of the Soreq below Ein Kere
The interfluves of these valleys are topped with flat or

Chapter Three - Geomorphology

backs. Amidst the fractured landscape produced by

se ~rosive. streams, •there is only one large expanse of
vel laridinthe saddl~ r~ion:the· plain of Gibeori (eJ;..Jib),
me 8km north of Jerusalem.
Thestiperfidalrocksof. the Jerusalem Saddle are
mestones and dolomites of the. Cenomanian-Turonian, as
~'i expected. An exception occurs in the southeastern sector of
. the subregion around Bethelehem and Bet Sahur where the
Senonian chalk characteristic of the Judean Desert appears.
The Bethel Iiills. North of the plain of Gibeon, the
i contours of the Bethel Hills begin their rise. Rarnallah, the
~> present central place, sits at close to 900m while the Hills
. reach their highest altitude at Baal Hazor (I 016m) near the
~. border with the Samarian Highlands. Along with their greater
height, . the Bethel Hills enjoy a broader width than their
~isouthern neighbors. In the west, the Shephelah comes to an
if end in the Ayalon Valley, and above this the Bethel Hills
~.•. spread some 15km closer to the sea. Their width is also
augmented in the east where the anticlinal crest broadens,
narrowing the northward extension of the Judean Desert. The
. influence of this broadening has been felt particularly in the
erosional pattern of the subregion's streams which have carved
its topography. The lateral expansion of the mountain
watershed has meant a less gradual descent of its drainage
routes to the coastal plain and Rift Valley at its margins. In
line with their stronger erosive power, the rivers have etched
their way into the mountain crest, slicing almost completely
through it. (Note especially the upper reaches of N. Shilloh
which run all the way to Silwad.) Consequently, travel
northward along the greatly dissected crest is made more
arduous, and the central highway must cross a number of
valleys. The long and gently sloped interfluves which enable
easy access to the Jerusalem Saddle disappear in the Bethel
Hills except on the very southern border where the ascent of
Beth-heron has long provided strategic access. "Thus the
Mountains of Bet-El show a difficult topography, are entirely
lacking level areas and possess no natural routes" (Karrnon
1971: 327).
The superficial rocks are again of the Cenomanian-
Turonian with the exception of an area north and west of
Ramallah where the deep incision of the anticline has
exposed rocks of the Lower Cretaceous.
b. The Shephelah
Depending upon where one draws its northern border, the

Hopkins. 7 Theljighlands ofC<i.naan

ShePQ~l<l.~Js.<i.. strjp",o;! lanp; <i.ppr9ximateiy;.l/.~krn;longby.

~~dej.~l.Il;l9+l)g.~~'twe~rl .tl)~;co~~t~plail'l . .~c:f.. !tQe.Jude<i.l)
~~!,i.e¥y;g;;!:th~.j~nz;!?~l~~~lljP9S.+:t~grl, .• itjj§~gmJI'l9n;to;;t~r
narro~;.stdp<l. •. "transitionzonet1lli~!raIlSitional~har<l.
e~ibi*~;~~ost ..•cJ~i1rlX!.oy!tl)e.~~ow.alt~tlldirl<it c:ie~ljqe
the •oal'l~ ·Pt "'~l'l0n~al'l<:llalk;'W1hi~h forrns t l1eeastern
witl1.tl)iHUl~(500W)!;t9.thlift~rfTlination 9£ theSheph
Eocerye.C;J1alk platea~~..tchealll.l'{ial land of..the coastal
(IOOm)•.That the western border is muted by inroadso
plain's cilluvial~oils illtothe hiIIyShephelah further .:t es
to the transitional .characterofthis subregign.
Greatly distinguishing the Shephelah .from its ea
neighbo~ are the wide valleys and round, rolflng hills w~
characted=?e i tst()p9graphy. E~peciallyprominent
va.lllifysof the N.Guvrim,HaEla, Soreq, andAjalonw
leav~ their characteristic v-shapes behind in the hills.,
adopt broad, open. forms .in the Shephelah•. This topogra
vades somewhat .within the twa longitudinal zones whicl1
clearly differentiated on either side of a border which divi
the region into two almost equal halves: a higher zone rang
above/fOam. in the east .and a lower zone descending J.r
300m in the west. .

c. The Judean Desert

Flanking nearly the entire length of the eastern edge of.!.
Judean Hills, the Judean Desert presents a classic example'dl
the "lee-side" desert. The Desert descends sharply from the.
Judean Hills a total of 1200m over a horizontal dista
between 20 and 30km in a series of escarpment steps wh
show the heavy influence of faulting parallel to the g'
Rift Valley. Because the Senonian chalk and marl which p
this steep declivity are both relatively impervious to
and highly susceptible to erosion, the greatest portion of
limited precipitation which reaches the desert runs off
devastating eroslve vforce; The result is a highly div
landscape of plateaus, rounded and flat-topped hills, gar
and deep canyons, "a 'mountain wilderness,' an apparen
chaotic landscape of innumerable valleys of all kirr
(Schattner 1971: 141). .l
The Desert's step-like descent to the Rift Valley help
diversify, but also to order, the subregion. The steps ex'
distinctive charatters:the highest lies at an altitude
approximately 650m and forms a semi-arid terrace whic
home for such sites as Herodium in the south and Mukhmas
the north; Next the area known in the Hebrew Bible;
Chapter Three - Geomorphology

~midba( yehuda" occupies two. steps at different heights in

is various parts of the Desert down to about 300m. Pastoralists
1;' <:antak~advantage of the fluctuating heights by shifting
their.flocks to greener .• pastures as the .season wears on. A
~ final, barren • terrace leads ; to the steepest and most
continuous escarpment which runs uninterruptedly for 65km
and drops anywhere from 100 to 400m to the shore of the
Dead Sea.

3. The Samarian Highlands

North of their boundary with the Bethel Hills (marked by

the appearance of the downfaulted Emeq Shilo) lie the
complex and highly discontinuous Samarian Highlands. The
Highlands consist of three parallel, but broken folds. On the
east the East Samarian Anticline rises above the Rift Valley.
A narrow band of Senonian rocks marks its western border
with the now-uplifted Nablus Syncline which itself gives way
to the anticline of the Iron Hills. Between the Iron Hills and
the Carmel Anticline on the coast lies the low, synclinal
Menashe Plateau. The coastal plain, which thins to a narrow
strip along the foot of Mt Carmel, marks the western border
of the Highlands. In the north the great valleys of the Qishon
and the Harod rivers set the limits of the Samarian Highlands.
The Samarian Highlands rise to an overall lesser elevation
than their southern neighbors. Despite its lower altitude the
smaller Samarian territory presents a topographical jumble of
mountain blocks and intermontane basins that gives the area
the feel of more mountainous terrain. Although the fold
structure remains more or less intact, pervasive tectonic
crossfaulting suggests that the Samarian Highlands be viewed
as "a transitional link between the massive Judean Mountains,
which are influenced little by faulting, and those of the
where faulting has all but obliterated the other
tectonic elements" (Shattner 1971: 142).
a. East Samarian Hills
The most crossfaulted and mountainous subregion of the
Sarnarian Highlands begins its rise east of the Senonian
trough that divorces it from the Nablus Syncline. Although
the East Sarnarian Hills do not attain the heights of the
Nablus region, they are the highest of the three Samarian
anticlines and the only direct continuation of the Judean fold.
Unlike its relative, however, it is not a compact mountain
mass, but shows the influence of its northeastward turn
closer to the Rift Valley.
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

In" the' south the' Hills ·()fCel'l()rrianfuri;"Tur6rti~u'r't()

\ broken. into •. sequenceSofste~litnitedbY>~~~lf esca
I,, frequently •.• of •..• great .,'heights;LlV!osf; ofithe"es<;:arp
ncrthwesc-southeest; 'an' exception.'·beingttte·escaf
the> Loban>vaHey' whlch ••··tunssouthwest~ortheas
western . half. of this southern '., section actuaHy';drains
Medlterranearu-tlrr-part along thisvalley~ In the ea .,
descent to the Rift Valley is uneven, first taking thesha,"
a gentle slope, then a steep drop. The Eocene rocks of
Sartaba represent a renewed rise which dropsoffsharpl:
the floor of the Rift Valley.
The most characteristic feature of the East Sarnarlari
is its dissection by branch valleys of the great Rift. The
outstanding of these is the Wadi Fari'a which dominate
northern section of the Hills. At its head deep in the Iii!
constitutes a v-shaped valley only' 5001 wide. Soon it bro
to a flat-bottom valley with very steep slopes. "It
strongly depressed that its floor lies at sea level at a diS
of 20km from its exit into the Jordan Graben, whereas'
flanking mountains reach heights of 75001 above sea lev
a .horizontal distance of 2.5km from the' valley bot
(Karmon 1971: 321). While the heights on either side 0
Fari'a are predominantly Cenomanian-Turonian, L
Cretaceous rocks occupy large areas at their centers
volcanic rocks also make an •appearance. North of the
Fari'a its smaller and much shallower cousin, the Valley o
Buqeia also penetrates the Hills. El Buqeia is a basin
Cenomanian-Turonian rock encircled by a line of s
Eocene-Senonian hills in the east and north. Its nor
extension is drained to the edge of the Bet Shean VaU'.
Wadi Maleh, The Bet Shean Valley marks the northern Ii
of the east Samarian Hills.

b. The Nablus Syncline

The central and dominant mass of the Samarian Highla
is the Nablus Syncline. Although a synclinal structure,
strongly dissected block has been pushed up by a teet...
uplift so that it possesses the highest elevations Of,;
region. Erosion, too, in attacking the anticlinal strucn
that surround it, has played a part in creating this pre
example of inverted relief. The subregion may be divided:
four parts.
The core of the Nablus Syncline..is an elevated
Eocene chalk that juts sharply out of its <:. ,,"rnllntii
especially in the east where it rises from the Senonian
Chapter Three - Geomorphology

ough that separates it from the East Sarnarian fold. The

locki~. sliced into" two by the narrow Nablus valley above
,jdtto~eE ". Mt "ER~Jto.the, north (940m) and its somewhat
aJI~i:,partner. MtG~dziW (88, 1w).' The Nablus valley opens
/~h7'7ast into the broil(ier , Sokher . valley, one of the
umerous significant basins, which surround and penetrate the
ntral core. To the east the Sokher valley flows into the
Valley of Belt Dajan, In the south it intersects with Emeq
MikhmetaJ which runs from well south in the Senonian trough.
;~;if'JOrth of these intersecting valleys, the central core is tilted
~{'jsharply downward till it reaches the major Sahur Basin. Just
~iiJorth' of Sahur another basin (Zababida) penetrates the
fffurthest extension of the Nablus Syncline whence it reaches
~Jlike a hand cupped toward the sea into the Jezreel Valley as
1~"the .Gilboa range.
p Though' often treated as if part of the region of Lower
GaIilee,the Gilboa range prolongs the Eocene rock of the
ijl central core and belongs geologically to its synclinal
structure even though the connection has nearly been severed
• . .• by the gorge of Nahal Bezeq. The Gilboa range consists of a
0tZcrescent-shaped ridge whose highest elevation is only 533m.
~'/ This ridge, however, reigns over the Bet Shean Valley sitting
iii at about 200m below sea level on the edge of the steep slope
i'e:; of Gilboa's exterior radius. There is a more gradual descent
by steps to the inside of the crescent where a round basin, an
. extension of the Jezreel Valley, occupies its center.
To the west of the central core of the Nablus Syncline, two
distinct areas emerge, grounded upon the preservation of
different strata of rock. In the southern half of the Nablus
Syncline, the Eocene rock of the core disappears as one
away from the center, and first Senonian followed by
Cenomanian and Turonian rocks constitute the surface at an
average elevation of 400-500m. Drained to the Mediterranean
the Yargon, this area reaches out to the Sharon plain with
numerous narrow but lengthy spurs rising over streams which
have deeply incised the hard limestone. In the northern half,
west of the central core, Eocene deposits are preserved all
the way to the Sharon. These are accompanied by a large
area of Senonian limestone but only smaller areas of
Cenomanian-Turonian. In consequence the topography is one
of broad valleys and rounded hills, especially beyond the
small escarpment which runs from the eastern tip of Dotan
basin in a thin arch southward the length of the region.

Hopkins ~ The Highlands of Canaan

c. Iron:HHls".
~e~()~~thE:.'Bot~b~sin(af1(;f.t~e\v~ditt1a.t ·•:·?ra.i~sift
M~itert~~eafl': '.lII..' fff cfe r.a)tt1; .• "fntidinal.:tructure.,
Iron Hills occupIes a r()ugt11y restfngulararea. bordered 0
east by .iheJezre;l Valley, on tt1e.westby the coastal
and in the north by the .Wadi Iron which separates It fro'
Menashe region, Within these boundaries, 'this : hill
Initiates the singular southeast-northwest bearing of
Carmel range. The. Iron Hills are an uplifted horst w
reaches. a height of. 518m and consists of Cenomanian
Turonian rocks with .a patch of volcanic rock at its cen,
Drainage of the Iron HHlsruns in two directions. In
southwest the drainage takes the route of . the. norj
tributarIes of the Hadera which follow the gradual descen
the hills to .the coastal plain. The. northeast half of the
descends to the Jezreel Valley where its streams merge
the N. Qishon,

d. Menashe Plateau
The Carmel range continues north of N. Iron in
Intervening synclinal structure of the Menashe Plates]
Running through a trough of Senonian chalk, N. Yoqne'a
forms the northern border of this quadrangle of low hills
the edge of the Carmel anticline. Typical of
structures of the Sarnarian Highlands, the superficial
almost exclusively Eocene, with some patches of Senonian r
chalk and a few nubs of basalt. The area of western drain c
forms a tilted plateau at about 200m which is carved by n
upper reaches of N. Daliyya and Tanninirn into a series s
open valleys. To the east of the rim which divides 1.
watershed, the slope to the Jezreel is steep and the drain c
into the. Qishon must pass through a fault scarp w . d
effectively demarcates the Jezreel and the Menashe region. C
e. Mt Carmel Sl
The anticlinal heights of the Mt Carmel region
Carmel range with an uplifted block presenting
Cenomanian-Turonian face dotted with pockets of volca
rock. Mt Carmel forms a coat hanger-shaped triangle with•.!, v.
medium-high escarpment running for 32km along the coastCl,S
its base. The northeast side drops precipitously at a fa
scarp of sometimes more than 400m to the Jezreel Valley a
ranges to its intersection with the southwest side of
triangle, the Yoqne'am valley, The ridge at the top of
Chapter Three - Geomorphology

jliescarpment.contains the highest elevations: Rom haCarmel

;'i:~J.?46m). at . itsc~nteF and I<.eren haCarmel . (482m). A second,
il\vgiSl:ontilluous.ri(.!g~.<~Jound to. the southwest plain, thus
~v(:reating a dePf~se(.! .~reaat the center of the mountain
i~i",;~rainedinpartbythe,NahalOren.South of Nahal Oren the
," western escarpment becomes less severe, and the mountain
descends to the coastal plain in the form of a dissected
plateau. in which sits the small Emeq Maharal. Along this
western border of the Carmel range the coastal plain
occupies but a sliver of land a thin 2km in width.

4. The Galilean Highlands

The. boundaries of this region of the Highlands of Canaan

are distinct. The coastal plain and the Rift Valley mark its
western and eastern bounds. In the south the Highlands rise
abruptly from the Harod and Jezreel valleys. The gorge of
the Litani River north of Tyre (Sur) sets its northern limits.
Delimited by these boundaries, the subregions of the Galilean
Highlands "form the most contrasted and variegated
mountain province (excluding the Eilat Mountains) of the
Cisjordan" (Schattner 1971: 151). .
The tumbled topography of the Galilean Highlands has
resulted from a high incidence of faulting and uplifting of the
fault-fissured blocks. Whereas in the Judean and Sarnari an
Highlands the fold structure shapes the relief, in Galilee
multi-directional faulting is the dominant determinant. One
Can still detect a narrow, central anticlinal ridge running
north-south flanked by synclinal depressions in the southern
section of the Highlands, but these folds have been sliced
latitudinally, giving the landscape an east-west trend greatly
contrasting with the other Highland regions. Lithologically,
deep layers of basalt outpourings from Neocene and
Quaternary volcanoes· blanket large areas, further ob-
literating the tectonic folding and diversifying the land-
Lithology and relief combine to define clearly five
subregions of the Galilean Highlands. The most obvious
boundary severs Upper from Lower Galilee: the Bet Kerem
valley runs a relatively straight course through the Highlands
at the latitude of Acco, The steep scarp at its northern edge
presents peaks above 1000m to the 300m valley floor. This
great altitude differential is in fact the most prominent
characteristic distinguishing the two subregions. Ail of the
Lower Galilee stays below 600m while the tops of the

Hopkins -The Highlands of Canaan

mountains of Upper Galilee break the 1200 rnelevationrn

The higher no rthernsubregion deserves it s descriptiCJ,

"Upper."Within Upper Galilee easter~a~?\Vesternsubre

are .distinguished. The.easternthirdo<;cuRiesas
trough that continues -the Nablus: Syncline and Jcarr!
superficial Eocene. rock far northwafd.'AcrosstheN. A
from. the Zefat mountain block (dominated by Mt Kenata
the region's southern boundary lies the larger and hi
western subregion of Cenomanian and Turonian rocks.
Lower Ga1ileepresents three subregions. A
sequence of Upper Cretaceous limestone mountains top .
greatly faulted anticlinal ridge. At its eastern flank, marK
off by a somewhat unbroken line of hills beginning with,
Tabor and running due north through Eliabun, a blanket
basalt covers the lower extension of the Nablus Syncline.
the west,the AHonim Hills form an extension of the Mena:
Plateau and are distinguished from their central neighbor"
their lower elevation and predominantly Eocene surface ro<::
a. Central Lower Galilee
The anticlinal fold of Central Lower Galilee has been s
repeatedly by faults running east-west so that it form~
ladder-like sequence of mountain ridges and wider basins'
valleys. The southern face of the Nazareth ridge presents,..,.
steep scarp to the northern finger of the Jezreel Valley al1t
descends in gentler slopes northward to the Tir'an basin. Oil
the opposite side of the Tir'an basin, a sharp monocllnal
escarpment marks the rise of Mt Tir'an which drops off at an
equally sharp fault scarp to the large, undrained Bet NetOfa'
valley, This valley spreads toward a steep escarpment whiCtl
rises to the 450-550m peaks of the Yodefat hills, The Yodefa~.
hills characteristically descend more gradually to the nort~i.'
to the Sakhlnin Valley which gives way, in turn, to the Shezar'
ridge beyond which rests the Bet Kerem valley. The Shezar
ridge has been broken by transverse faults into three isolated
mountains: H. Hazen, H. Kammon, and H. Gilon, A similar
effect is shared by all the interbasin ridges of Central Lower
Galilee which have been carved by erosion into isolated hills
separated by saddles which carry the drainage streams. Th~
southern outlier of the subregion, Mt Tabor, owes its isolation
to a complex pattern of faulting that encircles i t . '
The surface rocks of Central Lower Galilee are pre:
dominantly Cenomanian and Turonian with Senonian in
south and along the western flank. A few patches of
Cretaceous sediments appear in the north along the
wi th Eastern Lower Galilee.
Chapter Three -

b. Eastern Lower Galilee

Eastern Lower Galilee consists of a series of slightly tilted
plateaus which decrease in size from south to north.
largest plateau;« RamotYissakhar, is delimited in the
by Givat ha-More, an isolated height of 515m, and by
Zeva'im range which rises very gradually from the Harod
valley • The plateau is slightly depressed at its center whence
it drains into the Rift Valley and whence it rises gradually
toward the north where the crusader castle of Belvoir sits
overlooking the Rift Valley from its perch atop an
escarpment of over I aaOm. Ramot Yissakhar is separated from
the next plateau, Ramot Tabor, by the Nahal Tabor which
dissects it with about a dozen tributat ies which form
"badlands" in the Neocene lake sediments exposed beneath
the basalts. Beyond the Yavne'el ridge sits the
crescent-shaped Yavne'el valley which like all the plateaus in
this series is bounded on the Rift Valley side by a steep
escarpment, here the Poriyya ridge. Still farther north the
small Biq'at Arbel sits at the foot of Qarne Hirtim, the most
famous of the region's few extinct volcanic cones. Numerous
faults dissect the area beyond the ArbeI into a row of small
but steeply tilted blocks bordering the Sea of Galilee and the
Biq'at Ginnosar which lend the area a more mountainous
ambience. 1\<. Zalman runs deeply beneath steep walls, and
the other main drain, N. Ammun, cuts a canyon through the
region as it rushes to the Sea of Galilee from the steep
heights to the north.

c. Western Lower Galilee - Allonim Hills

A subtle shift in surface rocks marks the transrnon from
the central anticline of Central Lower Galilee to the Eocene
syncline of the Allonirn Hills to the west. These
characteristically rounded hills slope from their border with
the Nazareth hills (JOOm) to the west where they present a
sharp face to the coastal plain (200m). Nahal Zippori with its
v-shaped valley drains this northern section while the
southern section, whose protrusion into the Jezreel Valley
(spur of Tiv'on) COmes very near to closing its western door,
drains primarily into the Qishon, Much of the Allonim chalk
Hills is covered with a thick crust of nari (limestone
concretion) which, for example, forms a "roof" for the
catacombs of Bet Shearirn,

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

d. Western Upper Galilee

Like\tll~}ptp7C~ll,bregi(}n. of .upper .Galilee~ . toe . Wie
sho\1(~ .:~.' rTjUf.;Q
9 m[e
cQfJ)pl~x.tQpographr·thandtss .:
neighbors.;!Nurp$r9us ;.taults ..· running. east-weSt, '.' soytrr.
northeast, .. al1d./soytheas..k ·nqrtll.westabove the. Bet.
Valley haveelevat.~alargenumber of horsts but left f
Lower.Galilee's broad basins at their feet. Instead, "a
of valleys, gorges, basins, ridges,. and isolated peaks
created" (ami and Efrat 1973: 76).
Dominating this maze in Western Upper Galilee
mountainous block\1(hif.;h caps the imposing fault scarp
of Bet Kerern, The. entire subregion rises to this rna
southeastern corner and its peaks: Har Meron, at 1
Highland Canaan's loftiest peak; Har . hillel (1071 m);
Ha'ari.0047m); Har Peqi'in (886m), and .Har Addir 00
These . rourded peaks roughly form an oval encircling.
dominant uplifted block. The center of this block is hea
dissected into a collection of isolated ridges by the up
tributaries of N. Keziv which courses northwest from
head in the mountains towards the Mediterranean.
Immediately to the west of this Cenomanian-Turon!
mountain block,. Senonian chalk has been preserved in a.f
small valleys with the Emeq Peqi'in being the largest. Beyo
this loose belt of basins, the mountains are sliced by fa
and drainage steams into a parallel sequence of nan'
interfluvial ridges which run due west toward the Sea.
crests of these ridges shelve small areas of level land
become plateau-like after breaking through the I
escarpment that marks at 400m the bounds of the mounta
and descend gradually to the coastal plain. The m
predominant and broadest of these interfluvial ridges r
right. through the coastal plain and protrudes into the sea
Rosh ha Niqra, This ridge, called Hanita, rises steeplyf
the coastal plain and stretches eastward where it broa'
North of the Hanita Ridge, the interfluvial ridges and
steams which flow in between them abandon their eastwe .... /r..
trend and take uP. southeast-northwest directions. 1" .
extensive O. 'Ain Aazziye empties into the Mediterrane'
about 15km up the coast from Rosh haNiqra, but itsf
network of tributaries extends all the way back southward
drain the farthest reach of the Hanita ridge. It drains as
the less complicated tableland north of the central mClUnitaJili ..; ,
massif. Beyond o. 'Aln Aazziye to the north, the low
Aamel range follows a long transverse fault running to
Chapter Three - \"3<:;'on')()['pri,ol()gy

The Cenomanian-Turonian rocks of the western

of Jebel Aamel give way to rounded hills of Senonian
then Eocene chalk which descend gradually to the coastal
that reappears beyond the hiatus caused by the Hanita
Through this triangular slice of hills, whose northern
is the deep gorge of the Litani River, the different
directions of the wadis and interfluvial ridges rotate from
west to due north like engraved lines on a sundial.

e. Eastern Upper Galilee

This subregion presents a face which is a jumble of Eocene,
Senonian, Upper and Lower Cretaceous and basalt rocks. The
greatest uniformity is found north of the Iatituoe of the
Hanita ridge in an area which also boasts of a minimum of
crossfaulting. The western part of this area consists of a
broad trough of Eocene chalk running north-south and
out on either side of the W. Hajein (a tributary of
and its extension the W. Doubbe, Very thin bands
of Senonian chalk define the boundary with 'Western Upper
Galilee and mark off the Eocene side of the Hills from a
narrow ridge of high Cenomanian-Turonian mountains ranging
above the Huleh valley on the east. This Naphtali range (hare
Rarnin) begins its run north of the N. Dalton where two
basaltic plateaus, Dalton and Alma, are found between
dissecting streams. Around the latitude of these plateaus the
descent to the Rift Valley floor is frequently stretched out
over a fairly sizeable horizontal distance. To their north, the
southwest flank of the Naphtali range presents a small basin,
Biq'at Qadesh, constituted by a rare polje or coalescence of
several sinkholes. North of this polje the Hare Rarnin stretch
northward to the end of the Huleh basin and present to the
valley floor an unbroken steep face up to 800m high. The
Naphtali range slopes gradually to the west into flat and only
shallowly dissected Eocene hills. In the north of this band, the
W. Hajein cuts more deeply as it descends to the deeply
incised Litani.
At the southern end of the Naphtali range, across the N.
Dalton, lies the Safed mountain block. Topped by Har Kena'an
at 955m, this Eocene block (Nit Kena'an's peak and all the
western flank of this block are Seononian chalk) does not
reach the heights of the Meron mountains. It is separated
from Mt Meron by the deep gorge cut by the N. Ammud
through an otherwise relatively flat, triangular plateau
resting between two blocks and extending northward to
encompass the basaltic plateaus in the Naphtali range. The
Hopkins -The Highlands of Canaan

goz;ge,ofthe Ammad. \Vhichdeepens intermittently to

proportionsIeavesme-Sated block with pre<:ipitous $1
tl} e .\vl;s~ ~.~d' soutb. 'PtJ•• 1Oeeas~ afaul tes<;~rl'mer~t
200..lfOOm·highdrops /off ,to ;a"fairlyleveI<~salti
(400-300m } that dedinesslowly toward the vicini
Jordan.Which occupies only av-shaped valley. at this poi

Co The Conse uence of Geomor holo leal Diversit

This gross geomorphological catalog of Highland C

yields a preliminary indication of its variegated .ICi'}dS
No two of the seventeen subregions isolated in .this
present the same possibilities for or challeng
agricultural settlement. Some continua on which to
these geomorphological. conditions have . . emerge
orographic continuum ranges from broad basins and
through hills, plateaus, and mountains differentfated In
of both absolute and relative altitudes. The flood pIa
rivers and wadis occasionally form deep canyons, most
v-shaped valleys, but frequently flat valleys with steep
as well a~ broad openvaHeys. Interfluvial ridges ~ange
in terms of both breadth and length: short spurs contras
elongated fingers and narrow :ridges with rounded
shel ~ing areas of level land. Mountain masses bear
degrees of dissection by faults and erosional streams••....
horsts may tower over depressed basins, or an area rna
more compact with few isolated peaks and interve
valleys. Slopes vary from gentle and gradual to steep
precipitous. Lithological composition ranges from unifor
highly composite wi thin subregions. Throughout, the
themselves alternate between various types of marl
lacustrine sediments and volcanic rocks.· The boun
between regions and subregions vary from dramatiC,'
wall-like to nearly imperceptible. Thus the subregions di~
differing degrees of openness or seclusion. .,.
The consequences of this diverse geomorphology
become more perceptible as other environmental fac
which impinge on agricultural systems are consid~
Several preliminary comments on these effects are, howe,
appropriate at this time. Methodological issues's
paramount. On the basis of this gross landscape cat
itself, it should be clear that it will be exceeding diffi
even impossible, to speak of the agricultural environment
Highland Canaan. In fact there are multiple environITI~+
The kinds of agricultural adaptations which prove success

Chapter Three - Geomorphology

'{orane community in a given locus may be inappropriate for

llsecond at another locus. A similar note is registered by T.
mpson,who, in the introduction to his survey of the
ttlement of Palestine in the Bronze Age, sees as decisive
econsideration of the "regions of very limited contiguity
and • enormous climate variation" in which settlements
appeared (1979: 1+). "The extreme diversity of the
geographical factors of the region of Palestine," he writes,
"enforces a caution in viewing any general patterns [of
relevant to the whole of Palestine in the periods
the Bronze Age" (1979: 63). From the outset of this
investigation we must bear a similar caution in mind as
concerns general pictures of agricultural regimes. \\ e must
lose sight of the thorough-going adaptation of
agricultural systems to their immediate environments even if
means we must sacrifice the ability to make all-inclusive,
statements about the nature of that
interaction in Highland Canaan. The diversity of the Highland
Canaan environment raises serious questions about a claim of
applicability of any inflexible model of its
agricultural systems.
This does not mean that no general rubric will suit the
f;u-rniino of Highland Canaan, but only that such rubrics must
cautiously and in consciousness of the variability of
the local situation. One can speak of Mediterranean
agriculture and its characteristics in reference to Highland
Canaan. The extent to which this general rubric is ultimately
helpful in determining the challenges and possibilities of
agriculture which directly shaped the life of the various
communities remains in question. Thus, for example, the
suggestion of Baly (I963: 67-77) that Israelite agriculture was
characterized more or less by the Mediterranean triad -
grain, wine and oil - (or was determined by the ability of its
environment to be made to produce the Mediterranean triad)
does not yield an adequate grasp on the dynamics of that
agriculture on the local scene. Baly's employ of the
geographical concept of natural region, "pays," recommends
itself, but he conceives of Israelite agriculture in static
terms, as an immutable tied to the three-fold system of
domesticates dominated by the olive. A specific set of crops
may contribute to the overall character of an agricultural
system, but it hardly is the sole determinant.
The variegation of the landscape may itself elicit a
characteristic structuring of agricultural settlement in
Highland Canaan, about which one can speak in general

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

terms. The diversity of the environment may be rnirrc,r"rl

a diversity of subsistence strategies. Two examples serve
introduce the relevant concept here, termed .• ,I'vertlcalI
The term',. ''verticality'' . is encountered ,. In.' anthropclog
literature on the Andes of South.America where it "descr
the ability .of, a single group (vi11age.or ethnic group)
exploit numerous ecological zones" (Brush 1977: 8). The And
constitute a parade example of verticality since some
their small valleys harbor as' many asa dozen or
climatologically and vegetationally defined ecological
fashioned by dIfferences in terrain and altitude.
objective of the communities which inhabit these
"to control the maximum number of ecological 'floors'
effort to achieve self-sufficiency" (Brush 1977: 8).
The Andean environment is far removed from that
Highland Canaan, Closer to home, lies the Biga' valley
Lebanon where Marfoe has summed up the environmen
contrasts and diversity in the word "fragmentation" U 980:
The Biga' displays "a vast mosaic of small, diverse, a
localized mlcroenvironrnents, where wide variations coexi
(I980: 3). The model of verticality fits the Biqa' even thou
the patterns of subsistence are oriented horizontally as W i '
as vertically. The limitation of irrigatable land and gre<:i!'
insecurity of subsistence farming have encouraged (1
diversification of subsistence strategies by which singlf
communities take advantage of the environmental diversityj
"strategies combined into myriad diverse patterns by a single
population group." "In other words," Marfoe writes, "the lack
of unifying ecological features resulted in a wide spectrum at:';
complementary and supplementary subsistence niche~:;
involving numerous permutations or synchronized seasonal.
and spatial patterns of exploitation" (1980: 5). In this:
environment verticality proved an adaptive advantage. ...•
While both the Andean and the Lebanese environments
present a greater range of diversity and possible exploitation
patterns than that of Highland Canaan, its diversity within
short compass (either within subregions or at their borders) is
no less real and significant for subsistence. Diversity of,
agricultural environment permits Highlands' communities t()
pursue a variously proportioned mix of crops and livestock,
lowering the risk of subsistence failure due to any single
cause. In addition, it facilitates the spreading of limited
agricultural energies across the annual calendar. Overall, the
variegation of the environment promotes self-sufficiency on
the part of Highlands' communities, a condition to which the

Chapter Three - Geornorpl101ogy

relative isolation and seclusion of much of the highlands

contributes. On the other hand, the prominent inter-regional
diversity suggests that there is not a little to be gained by
.. the forging of social ties beyond the local setting. Thus the
fragmented landscape points to the possible importance of
regional exchange. Fuller exploration of such possible
implications will appear all the more essential after other
variables of the environment - climate, calendar, soil, and
vegetation are included in the equation and their
multiplying effect on geomorphological diversity is gauged.



The Deed Sea.

Chapter Four


A. Climate

1. Introduction

UR aim in the initial part of this chapter is to

describe the three primary features of the
climate of Highland Canaan and to draw some
basic conclusions regarding their effects on the
conduct of agriculture. We shall consider the
basic meteorology and the patterns of temperature and
precipitation it produces. The picture will be one of the
current climatic regime in the Highlands, drawn with data
collected over the past century and a quarter (on the climate
in general see: Ashbel 1951, 1971; Atlas of Israel; Baly 1957:
4-1-87; Karman 1971: 20-29; Orni and Efrat 1973: 135-163).

2. Seasonality

Situated on the margins of both sea and desert, highland

Canaan has been characterized as "a climatic battlefield
where opposing forces of sea and desert meet head on" (Baly
1957: 41). The N:editerranean climate of Highland Canaan, as
well as the remainder of the Levant, does display as its prime
characteristic the sharply seasonal contrast between dry,
warm summers and wet, cool winters. This sharp seasonality
is, however, less a product of conflict between the desiccated
and humid energies of desert and sea as it is the outcome of
more extensive meteorological forces. Lying in the northern
latitudes of the subtropical zone, Highland Canaan is subject
to the hegemony of a vast low pressure gradient stretching
from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf in the summer, but is
invaded by the cyclones of the temperate zone which shifts
southward in the winter. It is this alteration between sub-
tropical and temperate atmospheric patterns which gener-
ates Highland Canaan's two dramatically divergent seasons.

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

Lasting from mid-tolay until September the summer

presents a dry core of three to four completely rai
months. The atmospheric conditions which bring about
situation are dominated by a gradient of low pres
stretching from the Monsoonal low of Asia through
Cypress low to East Africa. This low pressure syst
produces northwesterly and westerly winds which arrive
Highland Canaan cooled and moistened by their path over
Mediterranean. These fairly regular daytime breezes bring
rain, however, but temperature moderation and dew. R
cloud formation is inhibited. by the presence of upp
atmospheric high pressure which causes air to subside a
creates a thermic inversion over the east Mediterrane
basin. As air settles and is compressed, its temp~r?
increases while· its relative humidity declines:ra'
forestalled. Declining evening temperatures permit
formation. This thermic inversion lends the summers
its characteristic constancy: clear skies, regular sea brei¥
and minimal temperature fluctuations.
The contrast between the summer and winter seasons
terms of constancy and stability is dramatic. During
winter the eastern Mediterranean is buffeted repeatedly
cyclonic storms which travel across the Sea through a fo
pressure corridor between the vast Central Asian hi
pressure center in the northeast and the subtropical hig
pressure center over the Sahara. These changed atmospheric
conditions are caused by a shift of the path of the jet stream
which displaces the temperate zone and its colder air to th
south in this season. Some storms flow through the 10
pressure trough from the Atlantic, but most develop over
Mediterranean where warm tropical air from North Afr
meets cold, polar air from the European continent. C yclo
and trailing anticyclones reach Highland Canaan in a fai
regular cycle. The cyclones bring rain-bearing winds from
southwest and west and are followed by anti-cyclon
generating winds out of the northeast and east that bring
clear skies. Thus winter experiences a regular change • ~~.
winds and skies quite dissimilar to the stable summer scene. ::
The two short, irregular transitional periods that mark toe
succession of summer and winter do not deserve full
designation as seasons. Not without significance for tn~
country's agricultural regimes, these transitional periods last
but a few weeks and are characterized by sporadicaltt
occurring phenomena known collectively as "Sharav;
Included in this set of transitional period phenomena

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

strong thermal . . inversions created by both durable and

precocious high pressure ridges which compress, heat, and
desiccate trapped stagnant air, and strong dust-carrying east
winds {the true Hamsin) blowing across the Highlands from
the Arabian desert whence they are· attracted bya low
pressure center over Libya or Egypt (Karmon 1971: 24.). The
former is more frequent than the latter while both can raise
temperatures by 15°C and cause the relative humidity to
plummet by 4.0 percent (Orni and Efrat 1973: 14.1. See also
Ezek 12.10 and 19.12 which depict the withering effects of
the east wind).

3. Air Temperature and Insolation

The strong seasonality of the climate of Highland Canaan

is displayed prominently in the changes in temperature that it
features. For example, the mean temperature in Jerusalem
during January, the coldest month, drops to 9.7° (4.9.5°F) but
climbs to 25°C (7rF) during the hottest month, August (Orni
and Efrat 1973: 138). Within Highland Canaan's seasons mean
temperature differences and diurnal variations are functions
of topography (elevation) and proximity to the sea.
Geographical position is also a determinant, and a general
southward rise in temperature is perceptible (Karrnon 1971:
25; Orni and Efrat 1973: 136).
The warm temperature of the summer months is owed to
the stagnant conditions caused by the high pressure of the
upper atmosphere and consequent subsidence of air. The
stability of these conditions finds expression in the fact that
the mean temperatures from June through September vary
but 2° and in that the average daily temperatures represent
actual daily temperatures. These temperatures are
moderated by the sea breeze blowing from the west and
north-west which is intensified by the differential heating
rates of the land and sea. The sea breeze is especially potent
in the coastal plain where it begins in mid-morning and
significantly dampens the natural rise in daily temperature.
By mid-afternoon the sea breeze has reached the crest of
Highland Canaan, too late to diminish the natural temperature
maximum, but still a welcomed cooling effect and an aid in
the winnowing of harvested grain. In consequence of this sea
breeze and in spite of its higher elevation, Highland Canaan
reaches or surpasses the summer temperature maximum
achieved by the coast.
The general rule that mean annual temperature decreases

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

with an-Increase in altitude is borne out more truly in

winter when the influence of the Highlands' proximlty to
sea declines with .the • cessationofthe. westerlywi~ds.'·
first rain of winter signals the arrival of the polar air mas
the temperate zone which results immediately in 10
temperatures; During the winter the sea doesprovid
moderating effect on temperature but this' is felt onlyby't
coastal plain. Thus while the Highlands do hot rexperiert
long periods of subzero (OC) weather, temperaturesfrequeri
dip below freezing and frost occurs an average of 2.5 da
during Jerusalem's January (Scott 1962: 623). The coast'
plain is almost always spared this frost. The interior basins 0
the Highlands are, in line with their lower altitude, generall
warmer than the surrounding hills, However, at night the
bear the effects of temperature inversion which cools the
to the level of the hills (Karrnon 1971: 27; Orni and Efr
1973: 136).
In contrast to the constancy of the summer temperat
winter temperatures vacillate with the cyclonic cyle so th
average temperatures do not reflect actual temperature~
(Karmon 1971: 27 emphasizes this). As a cyclonic depressi()~
heads toward the eastern Mediterranean coast, warm, dry ali"
is drawn out of the southeast. Suddenly, a cold front
approaches, temperatures drop, and strong winds bring ral~
from the west. The passage of a cyclone brings with it clear~"
cold polar air from the Balkans. Reflecting this alteration of
the influence of different air masses, the average absolute
minimum for Jerusalem in January is -3.5°C while
average absolute maximum reaches 22.3°C.
Mention should also be made of the seasonal variation
insolation values in Highland Canaan, which is actually
than one might expect given the nature of the two se(3.SCms~:0C
The amount of the sun's energy (of solar radiation)
by the surface of the earth depends upon the degree of
cover and the angle of incidence of the sun's rays. In
summer only one-fourth of the days are partly cloudy,
the rest are completely clear. Cloud cover in winter is
less than total because of the character of the cvclonic
cycle. Consequently in the summer the ground receives
sun's rays close to 98 percent of the possible hours, while
the winter this figure is reduced to about 50 percent \/"\"'".,''''
1971: 184). Because of its position close to the Trr,n;r'"
angle formed by the sun's rays and the ground reaches as
as 80°. Since this measure of the height of the sun's d:s<~t::ln
over the horizon is achieved during the nearly

Chapter Four - Climate &: Cl irr at ic Change

summer, the amount of energy reaching the surface is among

the highest in the world and results in high evaporation and
transpiration rates.
Theinsdlationand the air temperature regimes of Highland
Canaan both promote and limit agricultural possibilities,
though other environmental factors represent stronger
The high rates of evaporation and transpiration affect both
the availability of water and the requirement of water for
agriculture by lessening the former and heightening the
latter. Even during the rainy season, the only partial cloud
cover Spells significant hours of direct sun and appreciable
loss of rainfall to its radiation, estimated at between 50 and
60 percent by Orni and Efrat (1973: 148). On the whole
temperatures are "propitious for farming," since they do not
create a cold, winter dead season as do those of the
temperate regions (Orni and Efrat 1973: 138). It is the
availability of water rather than the range of temperatures
that limits the length of the agricultural season.
The fluctuations of temperature create other beneficial
conditions. During the regular winter cold and the few nights
of freezing temperatures "deciduous fruit and vines on the
Hills receive in most winters the moderate 'cold ration'
needed to enter dormancy" (Orni and Efrat 1973: 138). The
thermic inversions of the transitional period at the end of the
growing season further the ripening of crops (Dalman 1932, 2:
1+) and acts in a manner comparable to the killing frost of
temperate regions by causing the rapid desiccation of weeds
and destruction of other pests (Orni and Efrat 1973: 138). This
withering of vegetation during the transition to the summer
also encompasses pastures, however, where its effects are
Finally, the variation of temperature occasioned by topo-
graphical diversity of Highland Canaan produces the possi-
bility of a continuum of staggered harvest times throughout
its regions. The variations between the Highlands and the
coastal plain and Rift Valley are the most extreme, and
advantage is taken of them in the contemporary situation in
order to bring crops to the most advantageous market
(Amiran 1962: 109; Barrois 1939, 1: 313; Turkowski 1969: 101).
however, such diversity of harvest times is also found in the
Highland regions within shorter compass, especially in those
regions pocketed by warmer intermontane valleys and basins.
It is also true that certain crops produce more prodigiously in
preferred temperate zones.

nopkms - The Highlands of Canaan

4. Precipitation

As 'an' indicator of the seasonality or Highland Cana

cliVJat~~ t~mper"tureva.dation)s. no.. matchf.9t"<tbeall
march of the rainfalL. pattern. rgainfall >i~ ..the ': de"
clim.atic factor in the physical.e)(istence of population
for plant life and agriculture"(Karmon 1971: 27).lhe map
the .•. . mean annual. rainfall is "the most importantclima
logical map" (Atlas of Israel, s.v, ''Climatology''). Here t
contrast between winter and summer is wet and dry.
The rainy winter season lasts from mid-October to ,
beginning of May. The shift in atmospheric conditions wbi
brings the rain has already been described. Under this ne
meteorological regime during an average year, about 25 10
pressure cyclones approach the eastern Mediterranean bCi~i
About half of these track. well north of the Highland
deflected by the Cypress low. The remainder dump their ra
on Highland Canaan as they pass over its northern and centr
sectors, leaving clear skies and cool, southeasterly breezes.'
their wake. Only a small number tracks across the southern
portion (see the map of tracks of Mediterranean depressio~~
in Beaumont, Blake, and Wagstaff 1976: 52). The location o~
Highland Canaan, then, relative to the normal track .t.,o!
depressions across the eastern Mediterranean is of decisivc;>t'
importance for both the distribution and regularity ofit.~
rainfall. It produces a "northern-direction factor" which is .a;
major principle of the spatial distribution of rain in High..
land Canaan (Karmon 1971: 24; Orni and Efrat 1973: 142).
Geographical position relative to the southward-shifted
temperate zone further cements this rule: rainfall
from south to north. Distance from the normal track
depressions also determines rainfall variability since
closer the distance the more likely an area is to receive
from at least a portion of a passing storm. Thus
regulari ty also increases from south to north.
Orographic variation is a second major principle
the spatial distribution of rainfall. While in the general terms
of rainfall physics a decrease in rainfall with increasing
distance from the coast is expected, the increase in the
altitude of Highland Canaan over the coastal plain reverses
this expectation (which is observable in the Negev plains and
in the Zebulon-Jezreel-Harod valley system, for example>.
Stormy, rnoisture-Iadened winds rise over the hills after they
cross the Mediterranean coast, cool, and increased pre..
cipltation results. The increase in rainfall experienced by

Chapter Four - Climate &- Climatic

the Highlands keeps pace with increasing altitude. The

steepness of altitudinal increases also produces an effect: the
steeper the slope, thesmaller. the area over which rain will
fall from the cooled air. Xhedistribution of rain over the
central . Judean and. <Sa marian Highlands provides a .good
example.ofthe fUJ1ct~ol1ingof. both the altitudinal and the
northern-direction factor. The more southerly position of the
Judean Highlands is compensated for by its higher altitude so
that differences in average annual precipitation between
these two regions are minimal. However, because of its
greater relative distance from the normal track of
depressions,Judea does experience a less regular rainfall
pattern than its northern neighbor (Karrnon 1971: 317).
Also a significant factor affecting the spatial distribution
of rainfall is the direction which a slope faces. Slopes which
are exposed to the winds coming off of the Mediterranean
(facing west or southwest) will show a true orographic
increase in precipitation. Slopes which face in the opposite
direction (east, southeast or northeast), however, possess no
exposure to the rainbearing winds and will show more than a
simple orographic decrease in precipitation. Above these
slopes air will warm in its descent away from the sea, and
precipitation will diminish more rapidly than if altitude alone
determined. This process produces the rain-shadow effect so
conspicuous in the Judean Hills where sites at the same
latitude and altitude on either side of the crest will show
dramatically different precipitation totals.
The combination of these principles of rainfall distribution
over Highland Canaan adequately accounts for the observed
pattern as displayed in the map of mean annual rainfall. The
accumulation of precipitation in the Highlands is significantly
higher on the average than the coastal plain or Jezreel
Valley. Some areas in the Highlands lie beyond the 300mm
isohyet which sets the limit for all but the most extensive dry
farming regimes, namely: the Negev Highlands; the greater,
eastern section of the Judean desert; the area surrounding the
Emeq Far'ia in the East Samarian Hills. In large sections of
Upper Galilee rainfall exceeds IOOOmm. (See Map 2 [p.325].)
Because of the tremendous topographic variation of the
Highlands, the isohyets of the map of mean annual rainfall
can be taken only as general guides. The rapid succession of
basins and mountain blocks, the different exposures of
rounded hills, and the varying angles of slopes produce
pronounced local adaptations of the regional isohyets. Thus,
"because of the variety of topographical relief, the rainfall

Hopkins .... The Highlands of Canaan

map of'c'the 'aills' lacks homogeneity" (Orniand

155);" )';'~,Z'1'r!;E.&"", "c ,'CiCC" C

;L.,I:qual'iinLirnP()rtanceto<th~;amotJnt'and. spatial '.distri~ptr

of rainfaU~;iJ·f.Highfand}Ca~n"\lS,~ts" temp()r~r'(fistribu
The;quantityof rain'Y;'hichfaIls inmost of .• theHighlands'
in' fact, notlessthanthataccumulate<f in some' temperat~
regions. London receives an average annual total of rainmor~
or less equivalent to Jerusalem's 550mm. Yet London's rain
falls throughout the year, while Jerusalem's is confined to the
winter. While the rainy season per-se lasts six months from
mid-October", to>thebeginning of May, precipitation is riOt
evenly distributed throughout•. Rainfall increases steadily
from the' beginning of the season and peaks during three
central. months after which·time it steadily declines. The
first appreciable amounts" of precipitation arrive in
November but a· full 70 percent of all,' rain falls during
December, January,and February. At the boundaries of the
season come the former and -Iatter rains ("malqos" and
"yoreh" [morehJ) so accentuated in the Hebrew Bible b~
caus~ of their agriculturally vital role of opening the plowing
season and providing a last shot of moisture' to enhance the
matufationOigrains (Baly "1957: 52).
During the winter the number of days on which rain does
falFissmallerthanthenumber on which it does not. The
mean annual number of rain days accumulating at least one
millimeter of rain does not exceed 70in the Highlands. Here
the contrast between Mediterranean and temperate climates
is great, as London's 550mmis distributed over 300
(Orni and Efrat 1973: 146). The average number of rain
for the temperate zone is 180 while Jerusalem's is confined
to only 50 (Ashbel 1971: 186). Varying quantities of rain faU
on the three days of the average storm with the first
delivering the heaviest and most continuous showers, 'th(~IH,'n
even on these days "rain is concentrated within a few
with sunny intervals between one period of rain and another"
(Karmon 1971: 28; Baly 1957: 4.7).
The net result of these features is high intensity rainfall
for Highland Canaan, more intense than in temperate regions':
The intensity of rain, (measured as the relation between the
duration and amount of rainfall) is of prime importance in
determining both the availability of water and the extent of
rainfall erosion. High-intensity rains result in increased
runoff and, consequently, more frequent floods. The extent of
possible .soil erosion also increases with an increasing
Intensity of rain both because of the runoff produced and

Chapter Four - Climate &: Climatic Change

because of the more powerful impact of faster falling

raindrops (Anthony et al, 1979: 120).
For;the goal of subsistence, the regular distribution of the
rain through the. season, taking the shape of a normal curve
peaking>inthe middle three months, is as essential as an
adequate amount of rain. According to D. Ashbel (I971: 185),
however, the normal distribution pattern is only one of five
types of annual dist rlbutions of rainfall experienced in
Highland Canaan and occurs just 33 percent of the time.
Twenty percent of the time, the distribution curve is skewed
toward the first part of the winter, resulting in a wet early,
but dry late season. Less frequently, only 13 percent of the
time, the pattern reverses so that the Highlands experience a
dry initial part of the season followed by a rainy second half.
Perceptible, but rare, appearing only 2 to 3 percent of the
time, is a compressed pattern in which a core of very heavy
rains is bordered on either side by relatively dry periods.
Occurring 35 percent of the time, a few percentage points
more frequently than the normal distribution, is the twin and
sometimes multiple-peaked season, in which distinct periods
of rain are followed throughout the winter by intervals of dry
weather /9/.
This catalog .of distribution types and their frequencies
paints a picture of a highly variable annual rainfall. The
normal curve and the multi-peaked curve which result in a
more or less even coverage of the rainy season may be
expected to occur six or seven years out of ten. This leaves,
however, three or four years in which half of the season will
see little or no rain. The consequences of this for Highland
Canaan's agricultural regime may be severe. The failure of
the rains of the first half of the season, on which plowing and
sowing are dependent, wiU delay planting and result in the
inability of crops to achieve complete maturation (so also
Borowski 1979: 79-80). Should the rains cease too early and
the second half of the season be dry, the growth of the crops
will be stunted and they will wither before maturation. Even
the distribution of rain in the multi-peaked year may be
interrupted for too great a period of time with the same
result. The susceptibility of agricultural vegetation to dry
spells is especially great in climates marked by a strong
wet-dry seasonality. After the dry summer, no water reserves
remain in the soil to initiate or nourish plant growth as in the
case in temperate climates where the dead season (winter in
the northern hemisphere) is wet. Thus in Highland Canaan,
the ''former rains" must come to inaugurate the agricultural

,> Hopkins - The Highla.nds of Canaan

sE:i!son.But,With nowaterrE:~t'Ves .t~ fallbac~. on

esp~I~Uy> youn~ . • c~?PS \Vithp()()rIY~eV;loe~root>srst~c
are ivtilnerabt~Tt()l 0rt drYse;lls·(Anth0~yr:et,c.~l~•.
stl 1?
1}9 -120)..·;,'filus,""evenif the ·.annual.·t()tiil:'~tt~rns •the avera
a' region ;lTlay'~suffer from'agriculturaltfrought"' ..(Orniali~
EfratI973:l4g)~ ..•••.•• . . : : / . ' : : ." . ..,;;
But the. attainment of the averageiinnualtotal of rain,~
matter what distribution, is hardly a foregone conclusion. The
i nterannual precipitation is also greatlyyariable.Because th~
same basic patterns of 'distribution .ofannualrainfaU ho19
also for years ofextremerainfaH, these two factors ofte.n
operate in conjunction and multiply their individual effec!.~
nYearsofdroughtand .famine . run . like a scarlet'.' thr~aa
through the ancient history of Palestine" (Aharoni 1979: 14).
. Substantial decreases in the amount of rainfall received
Highland Canaan. result primarily from the blockage of
path 'of cyclonic depressions over the eastern Mediterrane"
Such blockage occurs when the high pressure center over
Central Asia extends its extremities· down through thE:
Balkans . andover the Greek" Peninsula . . . into the Med;;
iterraneariiaridmerges with the. high pressure system~!
the Sahara. In this way the passage of low pressure cyclones
over the Mediterranean is barricaded and Highland Canaan's
primary source of rain shutoff. Precipitation extremes, both
positive and negative, are also created by the meanderings'OI
the jet stream which can bring more or less of the Highland
under the' influence of the temperate zone depending upon
the extent of its swing (Karmon 1971: 23; Scott 196~
624-625). Should the' jet stream swing less to the south th~~
expected, a northward deflection ·of the normal cyclonic
track results.Drought caused by.thisatmospheric variatibl'!
will be felt . more severely in the southern portions oft~~
Highlands than In the north,' in line with the functioningo~
the northern-directionfactor:In general,"however, drought:f
anyone year does not necessarily affect the entire Highlanm>
but may attack one region rather than another in a fair~r;
unpredictable fashion (Orni and Efrat 1973: 149). The fac:~
that atmospheric conditions over Highland Canaan are' no.t
dictated by any single, dominant force multiplies irregularitt
and means that "different air masses may lie simultaneously
over different parts of the country" (Karmon 1971:2~~
furthernuancing its environmental diversity in a given year. il
Causes of substantial deviatlons': -cf interannual pr~~
<:ipit~tionaside, two parameters of this .deviation must "'f.Sf:
brought into view: the frequency of extreme precipitation arid

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

the extent of the deviation from the mean. Working with 106
yearsof data from Jerusalem, Neumann has found that the
frequency distribution of rain amounts approximates the
normal curve (unimodal, symmetrical, rnesokurtic-bell-
shaped) (Neuman 1956: 58-63). The curve is a function of the
mean annual precipitation and the standard deviation which
for Jerusalem amount to 560mm and 142mm respectively.
According to the properties of the normal curve, rain will fall
outside the range of the standard deviation both above and
below the mean just over 31 percent of the time. Rainfall
wlll deviate from the mean by a value of one-half the
standard deviation over 60 percent of the time. For
Jerusalem this means that three years out of ten will
experience accumulations of rainfall about 16 percent less
than the mean and that one or two of these years will
experience more than 25 percent less. Thus rainfall of less
than 489mm would be expected three years out of ten with
half of these accumulating less than 41 Smrn,
The relationship between the two parameters which
determine the rainfall distribution curve throughout the
Highlands produces a clear indication of the range of
interannual variation and the overall dependability of
rainfall. Katsnelson has calculated the coefficient of
variation, the ratio between the standard deviation and the
mean, for various locations throughout the Highlands, as well
as the coastal plain and the Rift Valley based upon
thirty-year-period data from 1921-1950. The Highland data
have a mean coefficient of variation of 30 percent which
means that on the average the standard deviation reaches
close to one-third of the mean precipitation. Lowest on the
list of Highlands' stations is Kefar Gil'adi in the eastern
northern Galilean Ramot Naphtal i, Latrun at 200m in the
Shephelah achieved the highest of 33.6 percent, while
Jerusalem's coefficient of variation works out to 27.6 percent
(I964: 164, 168-169).
Katsnelson proposes another measure of the interannual
variability of rainfall in the Highlands of Canaan, called the
"relative interannual variability," which permits the
consideration of "whether the changes of precipitation from
year to year are rather smooth or very abrupt" (1964: 169).
Defined as the ratio of the average of absolute differences
between successive years and the mean, the relative
interannual variability differs from the coefficient of
variation by virtue of a numerator based on differences
between rainfall amounts in neighboring years rather than

Hopkins-iTh~ fligh1ands of Canaan

diff.<:r:~nq;s'fr:oman'~~'(fet"a~~\Year.~he i SOrn#:'Yha~:'hi
Pfar¢~~tFge~i;PF8du~ed.;in;1;rn~ fllan';1er,.l"anging.a~81.l?d.·a
oft.32'p~~c~rr"fapP~ii1;0;Bi<:ltCate.·i.that di:ff~Fences. f~(1N1
to:;Y~<¥r;:; ~(Ju{en1;!i:ll.di:Ue~~nc~~~ . .e;trc:;moFesignifi£aflt

diff<:rel)C~.··fromJhe",··mfaan,;~In'Jcmy'case,.: thevaJues{of
relative: interannual· . variability . indicate ra ther: .abr
variations i rtrainfal1from year.rc, year.
Both thercoefflclerrtiof variation and the Values Of
relative interannualvariabilityc are considerably higher
Highland . Canaan '. than. those'. computed '. for iIocati0rts
similar . . amounts of» rainfall in . more temperate; eli
(Katsnelson 1964: 169). Deviations of more thanlOperc
from the annual mean precipitation in Western Europe
exceptional (Orniand~frat 1973:148). In general,
variability of annual rainfall increases with decreasing ann
precipitation, though without uniformity (Foster 19q;8: 13
This is borne out in the Highlands where the operation of
northern-direction factor is 'observable. The effect
distance from .the sea on variability of rainfall is als6
apparent, especially in the Zebulon-Yizreel-Harod val1~l
chain,. as is the. relative dissection of the mountain face~<
exposed to the sea. The combination of all these factors carl
be seen in the fact that the lowest variability is found in th.e
Mt Carmel region (a compact mountain in dose proximity to.
the sea), while the highest variability is encountered in the
Central Negev Hills.
The general rule that variability increases with decreasinz
annual precipitation has especially serious consequences
those areas which lie on the border of aridity,
agricultural possibility is limited by low annual pn"cipitafionif0:';ft
The' average precipitation figures for these regions
frequent dips below the amount of rainfall for
farming. Whatever. figure of" minimum average pn~cipitatjlol;l
is accepted as setting the limits of agriculture;
marks must not be conceived as a thin line, but a wide
of precariousness. Heaping further difficulties upon the
arid regions as well as the rest of the Highlands is the
that years which do not achieve the mean may bunch
creating dry periods. Series of rainfall-deficient years;
as the one Semple notes in Athens where a decade held seven,
markedly subnormal years (1931: 92), are all too frequent
even far from the border of aridity. In Jerusalem most of the
years between lS69 and 1873 and between 1924 and 1936
were. significantly deficient in rainfall (see the data in Ashbel
1951: 97). Writes Amiran: !

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

Israel, like all other semi-arid countries, is distinguished

by prolonged series of sub-normal rainfall years. These
do not HalwCiYs repeat the. grim biblical story of seven
lean years,'butthree consecutive lean years, each with a
negative deviation of 30 percent or more from average
values, are unfortunately part of the experience of
every farmer. (I 962: 104).

5. Water Availability

a. Rainfall
If the annual precipitation in Highland Canaan approx-
imates the normal distribution curve, then the number of
years of low rainfall will be balanced by the number of years
in which rainfall surpasses the mean. Unfortunately, this
balance does not signify compensation, and any extra water
available for subsistence in one year does not directly carry
over into the next year's ledger.
The question of water availability, especially for ag-
ricultural crops, is not solely determined by the amount of
rainfall as measured at a meteorological station. A con-
sideration of the other factors which affect the ''bottom line"
of the rainfall ledger produces numerous insights about the
adaptation of agriculture to the Highland Canaan environ-
Rainfall, the major source of water in Highland Canaan,
passes through a number of stages on its way to becoming
available for agricultural purposes (Evenari, Shanan and
Tadmor 1971: 135). A certain quantity of the rain that first
descends from the clouds is required to wet the vegetation
and does not reach the ground. Once this so-called
interception storage is filled, rain begins to penetrate the
ground in a second stage, called infiltration. Infiltration is
determined by the kind of soil, its state, and the velocity of
the precipitation. The high-velocity rainfall of Highland
Canaan has a tendency to seal pores in the surface of the soil
and, thus, reduce infiltration, especially at the beginning of
the rainy season when the surface layer of soil is completely
desiccated and nonfloculated. The rate of infiltration varies
from soil to soil, with some of the heavy soils of the basins,
for example, showing greatly impeded infiltration rates. Once
the soil is saturated or whenever the rate of precipitation
exceeds the rate of infiltration, as is most often the case in
Highland Canaan, small depressions on the surface begin to
fill with the excess rain water, The water which fills these
Hopkins ,.. The Highlands of Canaan

depressions will eventually. intiltrate,butoncectheir capadt

is reached, water then flowsoverland\\iithgra vityait

becomes sUrface •runoff•.• Because: of "th!~rrn!~bl!; .~?

which lies below the soil of Highland Gal1aa~,wtheamount:
rain lost torunoff has beenestimatedatb!tWeenonly;5'
15 percent (Ornl and Efrat 1973:J48;KaftflOn"1971: 120kI
worth noting that once rain enters the rock it ceases to be
available for agriculture until it percolates up in springsirf
low-lying areas.
The relative amounts of infiltration and its opposite.
runoff, vary also according to relief and vegetative' cover; .
The high and varied relief of Highland. Canaan naturally
increases runoff as it decreases the areal Iextent of flat
surfaces: depression storage is at a minimum. The absence o~
extensive and multi-layered vegeta.tivecover presentl¥
exacerbates what it. once ameliorated; Surface runoff is 99
longer decreased by .Iarge quantities of. interception storage~
and the high-velocity fall of the raindrops is no longer brokeq
by vegetative cover. The root systems of only a limited
expanse of trees, shrubs, and grasses serve any longer to
back the water. Below we shall have the opportunity
consider the antiquity of the denudation of the Highlands
the effects of this process on soil cover. Suffice it to say
a state of high relief and limited vegetational cover coupled
with high intensity rainfall severely diminishes
effectiveness of the Highlands' precipitation.
The effectiveness of precipitation is also limited by the
high rate of insolation and, consequently, evapotranspirati09
(signifying the combined evaporation from the soil surface
and transpiration from vegetation; see Thornthwaite 1948:
55), which draws off tremendous amounts of moisture from
the Highlands. Even though the greatest rates of insolation
are achieved during the dry summer, evaporation still claims
50-60 percent of the Highlands' rainwater immediately (Orni
and Efrat 1973: 14&). The relationship between evapo-
transpiration and precipitation in general is the major de:"
terminant of water availability for agricultural plants. The
seasonal pattern of this relation in Highland Canaan's
Mediterranean climate is reversed from that of temperate
climates. In temperate climates the dead season is wet and
water accumulates in the soil during this time when rainfall
exceeds evaporation. During the growing season, crops cal?
depend upon the reserves in the soil when evaporati09
exceeds rainfall. The Mediterranean pattern is just the
opposite. The dead-season, summer months, during which

Chapter Four - Climate & Cl irnat ic

evaporation towers over almost non-existence rainfall, drain

the soil of whatever small quantity of moisture remains from
th~ pre~iousgrowingseasoh.Thesoil profile begins the slow
process ()f accurnulating moisture with the onset of the rains
upon which crops must depend for all their water. Rainfall
exceeds evapotranspiration during most of the growing season
so that by the time the rains end, crops can rely upon a
renewed profile to reach maturation.
The relationship between evapotranspiration and precip-
itation supplies the cornerstone of a widely accepted system
of climate classification devised by C. W. Thornthwaite
(1948). Thornthwaite's climate index centers upon the annual
fluctuation of the water balance in the soil which he
calculates by relating precipitation, temperature, and
evapotranspiration. An annual water balance diagram drawn
under his influence would include not only precipitation
amounts but factors of evapotranspiration, water surplus,
water reserve in the soil, and water deficit. W. Ritcher has
prepared rainfall diagrams for a number of stations
throughout modern Israel (I969: Karte no. 6 and pp. 35-38).
Below the Jerusalem diagram is reproduced.

- - Potential Evapotranspiration
----- Precipitation

Water surplus
?;;.:O: Water deficiency
r / Soil moisture utilization
.. :::--.:::: Soil moisture recharge

Figure 2. Water balance - Jerusalem.

Following this diagram it is clear that, though rains begin
in Jerusalem in late September, there is no agriculturally
available water surplus until after the soil water is renewed,
a process which begins in December and comes to an end in
February. During the central months of the rainy season
through March, a water surplus exists which percolates up as
springs or fills streams or reservoirs. When the rains come to
an end, vegetation is able to draw upon the soil's water
reserve which is depleted by the end of May. In this way the
soil acts as a kind of storage bank that tempers the beginning
of the dry season. Though Thornthwaite's method relies upon
a calculation of potential evapotranspiration which over-
estimates actual water losses, it none the less accurately and
dramatically displays the decisive pattern of soil-water
availability (Richter 1969: 35).
tiopkins-Iheljighlapds of Canaan
I ,Iwopb,serYt3:1!91'1,S t3:,l?()ut;,ctla~lel'lges a;n~p()~ibilit.ies, of>mt
raiI1fa!l<~I1Yi!J:;orym~.('lt40f.,.agricultWt3:l>practic~,<::an. be ".m
t3:tjfi~}~j p()jtt!~id:; !f§t;((t)~[ld< ,~prem()~t" '2PI}~q.~ffi t.!ory i pf
ag,~<::u1Wral.tV{~tn~a~9',.>frPIl'l<:.t.I1~, ,p~r:;~ive, ".Qf ,tV{a
b~'2ein,Jh~·; .SCl!l}'~",pla!ns,t"th~i vulnerap#!ty ;of", ne
sprouted crcps toahiatusotpre<::ipitationaftergerminati
there)s no water ,jn th,esoilitosustain their growth.~
general the faster an areaachieve~ a replenishment of itssQ!l
water bank, the less vulnerable its agricultural system to the
vagaries of the temporal distribution of rainfall,and the
optimal in this resPect \ViU that area be. Since the, factors
Thornthwaite's calculation do not, include the rates
infiltration, adjustments to the determination of the renewal
of soil water and presence ,otwater surplus appear necessary,
In, the Highlands, the. sharp,slopes .will. experience more ""'''' ,"""'"
renewal of the soil water bank and realization of a
This tendency will be reversed .ror the intermontane UC1;)UI",
some of which (like .Bet Netofa) are reported to
flooded until late in the winter after which they
enough moisture to support a non-irrigated summer crop.
Agricultural practice, can little affect the rate of
ation and evapotranspiration that steals so much of its
t ial water supply. The control of surface runoff, however,
which may account for the loss of between 12 and 38 percent
of the total rell1aining' after the initial, unavoidable effects
of insolation, may lie within the reach of the
moved to increase the stability and productivity of its
agricultural system /101. To a series of communities in the
Central Negev Hills, the area's characteristically high
percentage of surface runoff actually presented agricultural
possibility. The control and direction of the surface runoff of
a larger catchment basin toward smaller cultivated areas
were achieved in the" creation of a successful system of
runoff agriculture in an area '.' of only 100mm annual
precipitation (Evenari,Shanan, and Tadmor 1971: 109).

b. Other sources of water

A number of other sources of agriculturally useable water

must be considered in order to gain a comprehensive picture
of water availability: stream irrigation, reservoirs and
cisterns, springs and wells, and dew.
Topographyand the seasonality of Highland Canaan's
climate have limited the effective use of streams for
irrigation. Few of the streams which carry surface runoff

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

flow perennially (e.g., the Keziv and Ga'aton in the north,

Hadera and Yarqon in the center). Most are ephemeral,
surviving in proportion to the precipitation received by their
watersheds. They;flow no more than a few hours after each
rainin the Negev, a few days in the .Judean Highlands, and up
to.atew weeks or months in the Northern regions (Orni and
Efrat 1973: 441-442)•. Fed by runoff or ground water renewed
by seasonal precipitation, even the perennial streams dwindle
to a trickle during •the summer. Because most of these
streams have sharply carved the limestone through which
they course and flow now through deeply incised valleys with
limited floodplains, the extent of area potentiallyirrigable by
gravitational flow remains strictly limited. This factor also
reduces the possibility of agricultural use of water which
could be intercepted, distributedv rcr stored during the
seasonal flow of the streams. The amelioration of topography
in the western section of the Central Negev Hills permitted
attempts to control and render more effective seasonal flood
waters as early as the Middle Bronze Age (Evenari, Shanan,
and Tadmor 1971: 97-119). In other areas of the Levant flood
control systems (including water storage dams) emerged as
early as the late Chalcolithic (Miller 1980: 335-336). There is
no evidence for the construction of such facilities in the
Highlands north of the Negev. Reservoirs and cisterns,
however, were widely known through the Highlands from
early periods. Where perennial streams and other water
sources were neither numerous, dependable, nor voluminous,
cisterns and reservoirs could accomplish the high priority
objectives of intercepting and storing the periodic rainfall
(Hamilton 1962: 812). The Early Bronze III at lAi included a
water storage reservoir which collected runoff from inside
the settlement, thus constituting an early city water system
(Callaway 1975: 45). The Early Bronze city at Tel Arad, just
beyond the southern border of the Hebron Hills, was also
intentionally laid out in such a manner as to direct surface
runoff to its centrally located reservoir (Arniran 1975: 76).
Appearing somewhat later, rock-cut cisterns large enough to
have played a role in a town water system have been
excavated at MBII Hazor where Yadin supposes they were
filled with runoff from roofs of dwellings (1972: 38-42).
Large, communal rock-cut cisterns from the Late Bronze Age
have been uncovered at Tel Ta'annek (Lapp 1969: 31-33).
Small rock-cut cisterns are found in every house at 'Ai during
Iron Age I (Callaway 1975: 49-51). Close-by in the Bethel
Hills at the Iron II town Tel en-Nasbeh, fifty-three domestic

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

cisterns chave,been,unearthed,testifyingtothe
these facilities (Broshi 1977:9l6).'
"'.;Non~, of"''$ese few/examples of reserv9ir~orciste
appears:dn'a,locati,onJithatwould' c,~uggest,?its.c,'use
agricultural purpoSes;}l.e.,;~tlocated\\lhere,theycould be u
to .theadvantq.ge,' 'Of "fields below'thern, ;rulingoutJ
use'fulnessforirrigation" (Miller 1980: 337). One.could posh
limited, garden..type irrigation carried on jar by jar, buttf'i~
reservoirs more likely stored water for human consumption or
for watering livestock kept within the settlement. Callaway
has suggested' a ,similar function for ,a rock-cut cister~
discovered at the bottom of one of the valleys surrounding
the hill-top site of tAi: "the cistern must have been cut fo¢
shepherds to use in watering their flocks" (1975: 52). Similar
cisterns "must also have been ,c' hewn in' the vicinity 'of;
agricultural 'fields. 'Perhaps one may infer as much fromls'~
27.3 'where a cistern carved in the vineyard would have
facilitated the keeper's watering. In any case, cisterns in the
fields, would have made water available for hand watering of
household gardens, individual plants such as trees or vines, or
rows of other crops.
Springs and -wells -would have also provided limited
possibilities ,for irrigation of crops. Springs consist
outflows of ground water that occur when impervious
strata upon which water accumulates intersect the
surface. The presence of springs thus depends upon the
presence of impermeable strata beneath permeable
superficial rocks. The flow of springs depends upon the
permeability of upper layers of rock and the amount of
rainfall infiltration. A well amounts to an artificial means of
tapping the same ground water brought to the surface
naturally in aspring,
Geological conditions favoring the appearance of springs
are found' throughout much of the Highlands where highly
permeable Cenomanian and Turonian limestones contain
shallow intercalations of impermeable marl which frequently
lead ground water to the surface. In the Judean and Samarian
Highlands, for example, roughly two hundred small springs
are sprinkled in a band running north-south to the west of the
present central mountain road (Atlas of Israel, s.v;
"Hydrology V/211) . The regions of basaltic superficial rock
such as Eastern Lower Galilee, on the other hand, are
generally poor in springs due to its impervious nature. Larger
springs, such as those along the western shore of the Dead
Sea," the Gihon east of Jerusalem, and the spring at Jericho,

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

Ein es-Sultan, result from exposures of permeable rock which

dip on either side of the anticlinal ridge and carry the ground
water rot the hills. Good use of this water could be made
through the •. construction of terrace systems below the
springs, .of which there are numerous examples in the
Highlands of later times (Edelstein and Gibson 1982: 52).
Channels apparently conducted the waters of the Gihon for
the purpose of irrigating portions of the Kidron valley as
early as the tenth century B.C.E. (Shiloh 1981: 170). An
example of a site with pronounced possibilities of spring
irrigation to achieve subsistence is the site of Kh,
el-Marjameh in the East Samarian hills. The rich spring at
the base of the ravine below the site can be easily directed
toward a small level valley. "The combination of ever-flowing
fountain and rich land in the nearby plain provided ideal
conditions for life in this place" where a planned town was
built during Iron II (Mazar 1982: 171-172). Whether such
possibilities were great in the early Iron Age is an open
question. The number of springs presently in the Highlands
mayor may not accurately represent the situation in
antiquity. Fe1iks asserts that "there is no evidence that in
ancient times there were more than the hundreds of small
springs and the few moderate and large fountains which now
exist" (1971: 388). It stands to reason, however, that the
lowering of the amount of infiltration that has gone hand in
hand with the denudation of the Highlands has affected both
the volume and the number of springs.
Wells dug in order to tap the ground water in the highlands
were of a different nature than those dug in the dry wadi
beds of arid regions where ground water can be reached
between one and five meters below the surface (Miller 1980:
333). In the Highlands wells had to be cut through rock in
order to reach the ground water. It is likely that the
technology necessary to accomplish this was available in
Highland Canaan in the Late Bronze Age (Miller 1980:
340-341). Lapp (1969: 31-33) has interpreted the LB I shaft at
Tel Ta'annek as an attempt to reach the water table. The
cy Ilndrical pit and tunnel at Gibeon from the 12th century
had no connection with the town's spring, but reached for the
water table in order to be filled by seepage (Paul and Dever
1973: 138). Similarly the tunnel of the water system at hazer
was not dug in the direction of a spring, but in a direction
chosen to intersect the water table, indicating, "that the
engineers possessed sound geological knowledge" in Iron Age
II (Yadin 1972: 176). Convincing earlier testimony to such

I techl1Plogy,
Hppkins ... Tl)eHignlanQs of Canaan

ge:z;e~wqi91·.<;IatesJr9m;~e .• ·t?~,oriJtttl;.lc:e,n!~nr

I ot.. ·{i;":l,;,·.'(~!1is:~I . c~~,f~~ };,i:i·.;C~'tHJ\I1~,t:i~s~J~$;;~lJii'il)'.;;~~··le

djrec t+9i)'i+n QrderJQj9t~~~~c:t!l1,.··,t,l;\~;iffi<>~~;;~!!icient
the; .wa,ter".,9e;ar+Qg, lime.stime;i~t~~t":l \\:bi,cfl. diplo\Va~q;, t
(DeverJ969:t"7 7~). '. '.. ..;;
The. primary' concern.of.ttJebuilqers .of.. • thesegigant+
" .. •

waterworks was to secure a.' reliable supply of '. water

could be protected during a siege. In order to accomplis
shafts were hewn to existing springs at the foot of h.
settlements, and what amount to huge wells were dug.
the settlements. The ..use of such "wells. for agricul
irrigation would have been. severely constrainedif nott
impracticable. The water discharged. tby springs
settlements would have been available 'foragricul
relative to demands placed upon it byhumanconsumptio
general, springs would have been focal points forsyste
more intensive, but, in terms of area, limited agricult
endeavors (Ron 1966: 111).
A final component of. the picture of water availabili
actually another form of precipitation. Dew represents'
condensation of. water vapor on objects which have coole
the dew point of the air around .them, usually by radia
during the night. Cool dear nights, high humidity, and
winds favor' the formation of dew, and are factors W .
explain the spatial distribution of dew which favors iitl;.l~
coastal areas and plains over the Highland regions. The area,
of greatest incidence and accumulation is the Central Neg
Hills and plains where dew forms more than 250 nights
year. The Negev is followed by the coastal plain (sout
and central) and the Jezreel Valley where the average an
dew nights exceeds 200. The Highlands in general experie
only 150-180 dew nights per year which is more than the;
of their foothills and much more than the maximum. 50 of
Jordan Valley (Ashbel 1971: 186-187). Evenari reports at
average annual amount of dew for his stations in the Ne
of 33mm (Evenari, Shanan, and Tadmor 1971: 35).
The temporal distribution of dew reverses the pattern
the rains so that dew condenses in greatest quantities
highest regularity in the otherwise dry summer months•.
fact accounts in part for the common perception that.d
somehow mitigates the summer drought (Scott 1962: ~
Noth 1966: 31). In fact, the vegetational and agricultlJ
benefit of dew has been over-estimated and.over-emphasi
Thus Reifenberg asserts that "often in summer it is

Chapter Four - Climate &: Climatic Change

the dew falling· by night which preserves the miserable

vege'tation1'(ReifenbergJ947: 15). Baly reports that dew "is
-: largely "'responsil>le for> the growth of grapes during the
summer, ;drought~n,andseeks the support of the biblical
testimony which well appreciated the value of dew (I 957: 143;
see also de Vaux 1978: 17). The biblical appreciation of dew
must be taken with caution, however, especially when recent
scientific work has not dearly illuminated the mechanism
of dew's benefit to vegetation. Katsnelson reports that
contemporary investigations. have shown "that the value of
dew in the water balance of plants is dubious" (1971: 1601; see
also Zohary 1962: 32). One important consideration is
assessing the impact of dew on water availability is the rapid
dissipation of any collected dew in the morning as soon as the
sun breaks over the horizon. It could be argued that the
presence of dew does serve to shield temporarily any
vegetation so that losses to transpiration are slightly
lowered. This would hardly constitute the provision of badly
needed moisture to growing plants. There can be no thought
of sufficient quantities of dew reaching the root systems of
agricultural plants. For these reasons, and given the
relatively few nights of dew in the Highlands, dew cannot be
considered an important contributor to the overall picture of
water availability.

B. Climatic Change

To what extent do present environmental conditions

accurately represent those of antiquity, specifically those of
the early Iron Age? The two factors which must be
considered in respect to the possible alteration of the
Highland Canaan environment are climatic change and
change due to human activities.
Being an exogenous factor, climate and supposed climatic
change have played prominent roles in a wide spectrum of
accounts of human history and prehistory. As an illustration
one might point to V. Gordon Childe's theory about the role
played by desiccation in the origins of the food-producing
economy and the beginning of the domestication of animals
around shrinking water sources (1951: 25). The dry and
desolate character of much of the Near Eastern and Med-
iterranean landscape today, littered as it is with the ruins
of more prosperous times, thrusts the question upon his-
torians of the ancient and classical world with particular.
force. The scope of this question of climatic change is huge;

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

butf<:)c9l,lrpt.,rposesthe . ~rgum~ntdoesnot ry¢edto bejoi

e~cepla~.~tPointoftbtSli,"?atichistoryofthe post-gl
•.~Poch, .•\\Ihich·•. Pt9.vili~s.· • .• st·
.• Centllry •.;lDe.limitiitio
?ul"."~onsigeration• .• ~o. only thiSfTlostrecent. pedodmeans
alrea(fY:\1ie,are olltof.th~range>of, real andsignifi
climate changes . profound enough to show upon the as
nomicalscale .0fcHmatic history. Below suchthird-or.
changes of glacial proportions, paleodimatologistsha
identified second-order.variations, measured in the hundre
of years, and first-orderfluctuations which are observa
within a lifetime (Butzer 1974: 730).
Sincefirst-order fluctuations are generally too minor
leave any evidence,' it is the second-order variations whi
are the focus •of the study of the post-Pleistocene climat
history of the ancient Near East. It makes best sense, the
to speak in this context 'of climatic variation rather th
climatic change. Accompanying this must be the realizati
that, both in terms of' the relative scales of climatic
human histories and in view of the available evidence, ther.
is no. justification for the view that the climate of Highlai)
Canaan or of the •larger Levant has changed profoundly sin,.\
the end of the last glacial period. The view that the Nea~
East has experienced a progressive desiccation, associate<:!;
with the name of Ellsworth Huntingon, has proved erroneou~
/11/. Most persuasive in this regard are dendroarchaeological
and paleobotanical data.
The continuing work of Nili Liphshitz and Yoav Waise!
(l973a, 1973b, 1976, 19&0) has cemented the belief in the:; '00','
continuity of the composition of vegetation of the Levant an\:1: 00i0"
by inference the basic continuity of the climate. lipschitZ"
and Waisel have identified plant remains (pieces of wood' ar~
the major focus of their study) recovered from stratified,"
archaeological contexts at Tel Beersheba, Arad, and Taana.ch:
and from StCatherine'smonastery. The most frequent!
identified species from these widely dispersed sites invariabl
occupy the same regions today, albeit in limited numbers,
their discovery in ancient profiles indicates they occupied
antiquity. Thus, the authors claim that during the last four
five rnilennia "no drastic changes in the composition of
vegetation occurred ••• and, therefore, neither did extreme .. )'>.·
ecological or climatic changes" (l973b: 36). Such a cOI:1clUS10ft
is obviously important for its refutation of ideas
.-"":tjtmti·ngton's of progressive', desiccation. Ancient
~iil\ tJ' es to vegetation in the Highlands before, during,
/ u~· ~
I A\.lt~lUM . '" 100

( 'R\~~~nSCl\ln )~
~Ut~ It.\Uiif~/ ~
. ."_ Ulni 5 /~ ~
Chapter Four - Climate .3< Climatic Change

after the biblical period win support for this demonstration

and further justify the liberty it grants to the use of climatic
data from the. modern world inreconstructlrig the climate in
the Levantfor>thelastfive milennia.
The absence of profound change, however, is not
synonymous with the absence of significant variation. Crown
suggests that significant climatic variations be defined as
those which "affect the environmental possibilities open to
man for his livelihood" by inhibiting former modes of
subsistence and settlement or affecting the characteristic
vegetation and fauna 0972: 313). Because much of the Near
East lines the border between "the desert and the sown," even
small fluctuations of climate, so that, for example, the
amount or duration of precipitation varies, can have profound
effects on environmental possibilities by shifting the location
of the border. Marginal environments are the most vulnerable
to climatic variations and fluctuations.
Evidence for significant climatic variations in the ancient
Near East is diverse, multiform, of varying quality and
applicability, and, above all, widely open to competing
interpretations. A review of the evidence applicable to the
climate of Highlands and the reconstruction of its history
would lead too far afield for our present purposes. Among the
various major types of evidence marshaled are:
I. extrapolation from the reconstructions of dimates of
adjacent and climatically related areas (particularly
northwest Europe). (These reconstructions have been
made with almost all the types of evidence listed
2. historical events (migrations, cultural breaks, etc.)
purportedly tied to climatic variations
3. hydrological evidence, especially regarding the level
of the ground water table, the Dead Sea, and the
fluctuation of the Mediterranean Sea coast
4-. dendroarchaeological and paleobotanical evidence
5. palynological evidence
6. fossil fauna (especially recovered from cave excav-
7. pedological and sedimentary analysis
S, paleometeorological deductions.
Some methodological observations about the use of these
types of evidence and some examples of current research are
in order. First and foremost, the use of historical events
purportedly tied to climatic variations in order to support

Hopkins .,The Highlands of Canaan

certainrecoost(lJetions. ofdimatichistory. is an.ebvious c

of .C;ircUlarrea$')?i~,and,;~~nfortu~~tely,i;all.~oo . com
(e.g,; I?Y.tzerj·~961:"i!l:l~J)•• proper'wme.t/'l()d i.'demands
sketches of cHmaticvariati()nsbedrawnup;tndependentI
other:historical;>dataA~hichi:they;,m<lY ·.then·>be ··talled;
illuminate, .HYPotheses ..connectingdimatevariations.
human. history,writes deVaux,'."cannoFbe proved at le~
urrtil.some success has been achieved in establishing a history
of the. climate .of thel\iear East which is independent of
archaeologicaldata ;angtl'leexisting texts II (1978:19 ).>IJ,
recent example of a reconstruction based upon an untenable
mix of historical and more directly climatic data is foundip
Neev andiErrrery's study of the Dead Sea. (1967: 28-30)..
Sedimentary analysis . of the south, basin of -the Dead
produces evidence of. variations in the runotf/evaporatte
ratio which can be interpreted climatologically to yield;a
pattern of changing humidity. The sequence thus produced.
located chronologically by radiocarbon age determinations
and, then, "supported by a parallel sequence of historical
events on the assumption that cultures developed and
flourished most intensively during dry periods, when waves of
desert nomads migrated into Irrigated vterritories," Thus
archaeological events 'in Israel, runoff/evaporation ratios,.• ;;
climatological interpretation, and miscellaneous dates can be'
charted side by side to give the impression of a fairly secure
reconstruction of climatic variations. But this is far from the
case. A recalibration of the radiocarbon dates which
ultimately cement the structure, for example, would
apart some of the neat correlations. The importance of ",........ ,;\f»
recalibration of radiocarbon dates to take into
short-term fluctuations in the amount of atmospheric
has been stressed by Callaway and Weinstein (I 977: 4).
addition. archaeological events themselves concern the Wt',OrlF>';;;';
of Israel, but the runoff/evaporation ratio with which
are correlated derives from the south basin of the Dead
(separated from the north basin in recent geological
until less than one thousand years ago) whose catchment
basically consists in the Arava Valley. Thus its testimony
clearly limited regionally and of a much different scope
say, evidence of seacoast variation. Further, one must ask
the level of runoff into the Dead Sea is determined
climate. Toward the recent end of the time scale (oc>st·-Alral:J"'V
conquest) Neevv iand Emery reject the
interpretation of their . evidence in favor of the
influence of human activity. Why Iimit :the

Chapter Four - Climate &. Climatic '-"Cl';;<:::

human settlement (or absence thereof) to the most recent

pe~l()d?>.Ihefact,is. that very little of the data from the
histori<;al. pericd .• absolutely demands a single-minded, .climat-
ological interpretation. The inability to eliminate non-
climatic determinants. represents a very high methodological
hedge around definitive reconstructions of post-pleistocene
climatic history •
.Palynological analysis can. achieve direct evidence for
vegetational coverage and especially vegetational shifts (see
Butzer 1964: 237-247 for a description of this technique). This
type of analysis owes its existence to the great quantities of
pollen produced by plants, to the enormous range of size and
structure which this pollen exhibits, enabling identification of
its source frequently down to the level of genus, and to
pollen's resistance to decomposition, especially in anaerobic
or acidic environments which militate against bacterial
activity. Most informative is the analysis of pollen from
stratified deposits, usually pollen cores obtained by boring
through lake or peat sediments, which can produce pollen
sequences which are then generally represented in
diagramatic form. Pollen diagrams present the fluctuations
over .time of the amount of various plant pollen as a
percentage of the total sample and serve to indicate changes
in "the relative distribution of plants within the environment
from which the sample was taken. (Eig., woody plants decline
while grasses increase.)
inferences drawn from pollen sequences are subject to a
number of important qualifications. The data may not relate
directly to the local environment of the sample, but rather to
the regional: many plants are wind pollenated, and their
grains travel ordinarily over hundreds of kilometers (Butzer
1964: 237). Also, plants differ in the quantities of pollen
regularly produced, and, thus, some tend to be over-, others
under-represented in samples. Wind-pollenated species in
general produce exceedingly more pollen, because of the
imprecise nature of their repoductive method, than do
insect-pollenated species. Pine is a good example of the
former while the olive is an insect-pollenated species
(Dirnbleby 1967: 118; grape and fig are also poorly represent-
ed in pollen samples according to H. Wright 1972: 190).
These qualifications prevent palynology from testifying
about the absolute composition of local or regional
vegetation, but still permit valid inferences to be drawn
concerning relative changes in vegetational composition over

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

time~Here poHen analysis has achieved its most th

results. .The work of one . of the '. pioneers of palynologidl me
analysis, Iverson, .. for example, •.. . has yielded • . •recordsx ba
prehistoric settlement in Denmark in the observed incre
of non -arboreal pollen. due to agricultural forest clearance\ of
(Butzer:l964: 241, 245). "'"pt bri
This potentially rich source of information about the pel
ancient Canaan environment has finally begun to be tapped th\
by recent palynological work in the Levant. The still inchoate in
application of this type of analysis is the result, on the cui
hand, of the slow a wakening of ad
archaeologists to the importance of environmental data and, alx
on the other hand, of the absence of ideal conditions for the to
preservation of vegetational remains. As Bar-Yosef 70!
"preservation in Mediterranean soils and especially in by
rossa is poor, where even sophisticated flotation methods ace
have been unable to provide sufficiently large samples arc
vegetal relics" (I980: 124-125). The region contains few arb
the waterlogged areas which have provided in other parts eli!
the world the best context for palynological investigation. pat
Recently such areas suited for pollen preservation as do anc
exist have been the subject of palynological sampling and dur
analysis•. A. Horowitz (1971, 1974, 1978) has analyzed and rec
constructed pollen diagrams for five borehole samples taken ana
from the Hula and the Sea of Galilee and two from haifa (B')
Bay. The results from one of the Hula samples (Borehole U.P. in
15) are the most firm, and their interpretation undergirds und
Horowitz's attempt at climatic reconstruction of the
Holocene period of most interest to us. The Hula sequence
f rair
reaches back six thousand years, and its chronology is
cemented by two radiocarbon-dates (4565 B.P. and 1635 B.P.)
taken at different levels of the core sample. Environmental
changes are indicated by the fluctuations of the relative
I ext,

percentages of marsh vegetation, open-field vegetation, and viol
arboreal pollen are interpreted as reflecting an increase in and
humidity. Slight increases of arboreal pollen are generally Eun
paralleled by increasing percentages of open-field pollen, recc
-showing the expansion of both under more favorable no
[conditions, A more considerable positive increase in arboreal Eas'
'pollen sees a decrease in the percentage of open-field pollen, of ~
"reflecting a thickening of the arboreal cover which competes also
"successfully against the lower vegetation. The curve of marsh radi
vegetation varies inversely with that of the arboreal, and this sche
circumstance is explained .by the topography of the Hula recc
basin. Humid conditions which bring about an expansion of polk

Chapter Four - Climate &. Climatic Change

the arboreal cover result in unanticipated diminution of the

marsh land since lake conditions expand to the limits of the
basin and consequently drown the marsh land.
With this understanding of the humidity-driven mechanism
of vegetation fluctuation, Horowitz (1974: 408, 413; 1978: 58)
brings his pollen diagram into conjunction with the historical
periods of Palestine and the climatic stages of Europe and
thus presents what appears to be a fairly harmonious picture
in which there is some correlation between "climatic and
cultural episodes." Periods showing higher percentages of
arboreal pollen indicating more humid conditions occur from
about 4000 B.C.E, to 2400 B.C.£. (A), from about 2100 B.C.E.
to 1100 B.C.E. (B), and at a somewhat lower level between
700-600 B.C.E. and 800-900 C.E. (C). These were separated
by shorter periods during which a decline of arboreal pollen
accompanied decreasing humidity. These periods peaked
around 2250 B.C.E. (A') and 950 B.C.E. (B') after which the
arboreal pollen curve remained low until the present. These
climatic variations are tied by Horowitz to the settlement
pattern which expanded southward during the Chalcolithic
and Early Bronze (A), was disrupted by nomadic invasions
during the Early Bronze-Middle Bronze transition (A'),
recovered in Middle Bronze II and Late Bronze (8), and saw
another deterioration at the beginning of the first millennium
(B'), the time of Israelite agricultural innovations. The change
in humidity which has had such tremendous effect is
understood by Horowitz to have involved either higher
rainfall (approximately 15-20 percent) or a more evenly
distributed annual rainfall with some summer rains.
The problems with this reconstruction are similar to some
extent to those which bedeviled Neev and Emery's attempt.
The overall reconstruction solicits a measure of plausibility
because it encompasses a wide range of evidence, but this
violates the first principle of an independent climatic history
and raises immediately a red flag. The association of the
European climatic stages with the fluctuations of the pollen
record could be mere coincidence, and there is, in any case,
no sure synchronism between European and ancient Near
Eastern climatic history (\\ right 1960: 83-84). The problems
of synchronism between cultural and climatic episodes are
also significant, and the necessary recalibration of Horowitz's
radiocarbon determinations would throw off the whole
scheme (Stager forthcoming). Further beleaguering this
reconstruction is the question about the extent to which
pollen patterns from the Northern Jordan Valley are

Hopkins' - The Highlands Of Canaan

satisfactory indicators~<ofvege!atf~~~fs~anp~S(
the larger region. ·ThisiseSpe(;.ia.IfY'I:I~rri~~ing··!~
draw paraII~ls !o·targerctiltur'aI·e~isotf~~"!b~··
variegation of . the~eva~t .speIls.a."1~~~~tclf
uniformity "and 'places an 'insui-mou~ta:BIe": hedge'
attempts . to extrapolate ,from thelocal!~th<:,;
situation. finally, and to my mind decisively,vegeta
water availability are determined by morefactorstr
the climatic. Human activities may lead to "an incr
runoHand show an increase in the level of the Hu
which would be wrongly interpreted as a change
regime. Similarly, agricultural actfvltles.vsuch as
clearing can decrease the. arboreal pollen percent~ge
absence of climatic variation, In the opposite dlr
intensive investment in economic trees-eoutdservet
the percentage of arboreal pollen (for example, Ole
Stager (forthcoming) also notes. There is no justificati
ruling out human causation except in the very young m
(contra Horowitz 1971: 260; see also Greig and Turne
186, 193). "
Another recent attempt to reconstruct the climate of
Levant from 8000 B.C.E. fares no better in achievi'
synthesis of data. A. Crown argues for parallelism be!'
the climates of the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe'
relies upon evidence charting changes in atmosp
circulation and ocean temperatures, Neev and Em
sedimentary analysis of the Dead Sea, Butzer's paleocli
ological studies, and analysis of the Zeribarand Meraba~
sediments (I972: 379-330). he groups this evidence tog
with archaeological and historical data and arrives
reconstruction that reads like a potpourri' of 'isolated
and variegated analyses. In the end the correlation of va
data proves problematic since it merely rnultipliesthef
of possible determinants and probable error. Eve'
individual pieces of evidence prove substantial, the pro
of synchronism refuses to go away and renders' ek
reconstructions of questionable value as analytlcal-histo
tools. . th
For present purposes, the reconstruction of the climate
the Levant is not vital as an end in itself, but only insofar
it relates to our use of present climatological conditio ne
indicators of the climate of the early Iron Age in Rig
Canaan. As we have noted previously there is' a tho
justification for this procedure from paleobotanical- At
dendroarchaeological analysis and no sure evidence ora tlu

Chapter Four - Climate & Climatic Change

ype tv cast doubt upon it. The difficulties involved in the

onstructionof the climatic variations which must have
aracterized .the historical past suggest that it is far safer
o treat the possibility of climatic variation subtly in a
nuancial.way rather than as the mold into which other
evidence is fit. For the Late Bronze and Iron Age periods, in
any case, climatological reconstruction has proceeded
substantially as inference from history, and given the welter
of possible determinants few would argue such inferences
trustworthy. For at least this short period in highland Canaan
(if not for the entire Near East since Neolithic times)
present climatic conditions provide good indicators. A similar
conclusion is reached by Near Eastern archaeologists David
and Joan Oates. They write:
in general it seems that there has been no dramatic
change in Near Eastern conditions since [8000 B.C.E.],
and that in most areas information about the present
environment and traditional ways of exploiting it can
help in the reconstruction of the ancient situation (1976:
We are left then with the conclusion that the climate of
Highland Canaan in the early Iron Age was not changed from
that of today, but only varied around a mean closely
resembling present conditions. The existence of such
variations is certain. They and their possibly significant
effects must remain an object of consideration in historical
analysis, even though we are not yet at the point of being
able to reconstruct their history independently.
This conclusion grants a considerable measure of authority
to observations that have been made on the basis of
contemporary data about the climate of the Highlands and its
implications for the conduct of agriculture. The farmers of
the ancient Highlands could count on the same agriculturally
propitious temperatures known today, but would also be
forced to contend with high rates of evapotranspiration which
elevated the water requirements of crops at the same time as
they reduced water availability. Advantage could be taken of
the variation of temperature throughout various regions due
to the topographical diversity of the Highlands, not
necessarily in terms of market advantages as in the present
situation, but in terms of drawing out the harvest season so
that a limited number of hands could be used efficiently.
Above aU, the relative stability of the climate means that
the communities of the early Iron Age Highlands were not

.' Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

spared facing the·. intense and highly.variable rainfall a~

\ pdrnari"!,subsist~f1cei.challeJ"lge'JStrategi~s.: :whichai

I ameliorating :or:ccoping •· • . ·with.~:t:his<.decisive . aspect "

clirnate: . 'probably,.·Jorrned. ·•• ·...prominent.: features
agricUlturaL systems. adopted in.. this. region. Highest
would be assigned to ways of ensuring as rapid as pos
replenishment of the water reserves. in the soil so .
temper the vagaries of the annual rainfall regime. Give
mountainous topography of the Highlands, the control,
surface runoff appears at first glance to offer the grea~
possibilities in this respect. Social mechanisms facilita
sharing present one avenue toward .coping with rai
variation in the Highlands where even contiguous reg"
can experience significantly different accumulations
precipitation in any given year. Here the effect of ;
rainfall regime in multiplying the geomorphological diver,
of the Highlands is conspicuous and wins support for:
notion that the potential of self-sufficiency was rea ....
traded by Highland communities for the advantages .r;
reciprocal relations. The treatment of the remalni
environmental features of consequence for farming'
vegetation and soils - will cement the importance of t
variegation of the Highland environment and elevate as we..,
the control of its intense rainfall as a crucial agricultUral;




Chapter Five


A. Introduction

HE conclusion that the climate of Highland Can-

aan during the early Iron Age was not substant-
ially different from that of the present does not
mean that the Highland Canaan environment has
=====- remained unchanged. The fact is that the deg-
radation of the environment has been severe. The respons-
ibility for this belongs not to climatic change, but to human
activities. If climate alone determined, the original soil and
vegetative cover of Canaan's hills could have survived until
today (Richter 1969: 42). The fact that this cover has not
survived only makes supposed climate alterations appear
greater than they were. "In any case, the part played by the
climate in changing the face, the ecology and the history of
Palestine has been far less than that played by man himself"
(de Vaux 1978: 19; see also Butzer 1961: 44; de Geus 1976:
176; Whyte 1961: 69). The present state of environmental
degradation throughout the Highlands of Canaan makes a
reconstruction of the ancient situation a necessity. Such
attempts involve great complexities and a broad range of
evidence which outdistances the scope of this study. \\e will
therefore treat summarily the nature of the climax
vegetation, the causes of deforestation and denudation, and
the age of the deforestation and its consequences, primarily
soil erosion. In addition, the attempt will be made to
reconstruct the ancient soil landscape and describe its

B. Nature of the Climax Vegetation

"To one who is familiar with the present day landscapes

around the Mediterranean Sea, a vision of almost unbroken
forest from the water's edge up to the crest of all but the
highest mountains may seem too fantastic for credence"

Hopkins - The highlands of Canaan

(Eyre 1963: 71). The contemporary visage of the Highlands ...

Canaan forms no exception to this observation. It
characterized by Ita patchwork of plant life in all stages
regeneration and degeneration" (Polunin and Huxley 1978:
The most common cover consists of the dwarf-shr
communities of garigue and batha, Garigue is a technic
term for an area spotted with aromatic herbs and low bus
of less than one meter in height with bare and stony patch
between them. Batha represents a yet more degraded state
which even shrubs are missing and annuals and herbaceo
perennials with well-developed root systems or bulbs whi
lie dormant through therairiless summer compriset
vegetation. Among the garigue and batha are isola,
remnants of the forest and maquis of the past. Afe\\!
still exist where the climax vegetation (a vegetative
that has achieved a state of relative equilibrium wit
physical environment) has not totally disappeared - Mt M~.
and several spots on Mt Carmel are the most frequently cit
(Orni and Efrat 1973: 169; Karman 1971: 202).
The climax vegetation, the exact nature and extent
which is almost impossible to know, consisted
Mediterranean evergreen rnaquis and forest dominated by t . .
evergreen oak (Quercus calliprinos) /12/. Quercus calliprinos
is joined by the terebinth (Pistacia palaestinia), a deciduot!§
shrub or tree which may attain a height of 9m and whose bark
produces an aromatic gum (hence, the turpentine tree), in a
maquis association that is the most prominent plant
community of the Highlands today (above 300m). Maquis is an
often dense (in the valleys especially; it is thinner on thedr)'
hillsides) thicket of tall shrubs with an average height of 4 to
5m (Poluinin and Huxley 1978: 1). Although usually jusea
shrub today, the evergreen oak probably attained its
maximum height of 12 to 15m and formed a forest in the
climax stage. Although a true forest, the evergreen-oak
terebinth community should not be thought of as the dense
forest with little underbrush in the European mold. Rather
the oaks are scattered and form open forests or woodlands
with a thick shrub layer of maquis (Rowton 1965: 377). Tne
low density of trees may be the result of the limited
availability of water for which the arboreal vegetation
competes by widespread root systems (Semple 1931: 265).
Among the other common associates of this evergreen
forest and maquis are: Ceratonia siliqua (Carob), a tall (7t()
10m), stout, leguminous evergreen tree with speading
branches that produces edible pods usable also as fodder:.

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation & Soils

Ptstacia Ientlscus-fmastlc tree), a I to 3m high shrub that

occasionally grows into a tree and produces a medicinal and
industriaL balm; Larus nobilus (lauren, a bushy evergreen up
to)Om.high; Arbutusandrachne, usuaUya tree of 5m height;
Ph!llyreamedia, . a shrub or. small tree; and numerous other
shrubs (Zohar-y.1962: &3).
Also a member of the Q. calliprinos-Pistacia palaestina
association. is Pinus halepensis, known commonly. as the
Aleppo or Jerusalem pine. In association with Hypericum
serpyllifolium, the Aleppo pine also forms a distinct forest
which flourishes on limestone hills up to altitudes of 1000m
especially on rendzina soils. This extremely drought-resistant
pine is the tallest forest tree of the Highlands, growing to 10
to 20m high. Remnants of its forest are to be found in the
Judean and Samarian Highlands, and Mt Carmel Hills, and the
Upper Galilee regions (Zonary 1962: 112-113). The Aleppo
pine forest is probably to be considered a secondary climax
that did not exist independently in the primary vegetation,
except as a sere. The life of the sere may have been
extended, however, by natural or artificial disruption of the
succession to the evergreen oak climax (Zohary 1962: 90).
Interspersed with the "high-maquis'' formed by these trees
and shrubs flourishes a "Iow-rnaquis" characterized by smaller
bushes up to 2m high (Poluinin and Huxley 1978: 10-1 I). Here
are found many widely known and used species such as
rosemary, a dense evergreen shrub with lavender leaves,
Jerusalem Sage, Summer Savory, Cistus villosus (rock rose), a
densely branched shrub up to I m high from which myrrh
probably derives, Rhamnus (buckhorn), and the ubiquitous
Poterium spinosurn <thorny burnet), a compact and spiny
The Mediterranean evergreen maquis and forest
characterized by these plant species represent the climax
vegetation which covered most of Highland Canaan before
the impact of human settlement and exploitation was felt.
Other kinds of Mediterranean vegetation naturally inhabited
some of the Highlands' diverse subregions. The Shephelah, the
East Sarnarian Hills, and the low-altitude eastern and western
extremes of Upper and Lower Galilee are yet home for
remnants of the Certonia siluqua (Carob) and Pistacia
palaestina climax rnaquis, The low altitude Menashe Plateau
and the Allonim Hills (200-300 m) still preserve occasional
vestiges of a climax of the deciduous Tabor oak (Quercus
Ithaburensis) with the smaller trees or shrubs, Styrax
officinalis (Storax) and Pistacia atlantica. The intermontane

I Hopkins .. The Highlands of Canaan
basins 'and "the wacfi!vtilleyshave"been so long
ctiltivatiori i t h a t t h e i r i ' c l i m a x v e g e t a t i o n i s l i . . : > t iadequa1:

" '!woe~tension~of~o~~editet"ranean,zone veg~tation~

penetrate'the Highfanas;J1\, narrow' strip of Judean Dese.rt~
the Negev, fiiHs,isin~abited by lrano-Turoniari vegetaf
which is non-arboreahmderaridconditions and is dorninat •
by Arternesia herba-alba (one of the worm woods). In drf,
sections of the Judean Desert and Negev Hills Sahara'--
Arabian vegetati~~ finds a ,home. '
A number 'of qualities of thisbriefIy described
vegetation of Highland Canaan hold significance for
exploitation of the environment. M. Rowton has stressed
open character of the Highland vegetation (1967: 277);.
argues, thatthemouhtainwoodlands would have
interlaced with grassy areas and would as a consequence
provided some excellent grazing land which was at the
time beyond the effective control of states and, thus,
for the renegade and fugitive. Rowton, however, sees
presence of this grassland as a stage in the thinning out
the hiII-eountryforest and not as a given of the climax. It
likely that the maquis climax would not have provided
ample opportunities for grazing without some significant
human intervention. Zohary describes rnaquis as possessing 'a
coverage that ''sometimes reaches 100 percent and pene"
tration into it may become impossible" (1962: 98). Went
reports that the impassable dense growth of maquis prevents
grazing or browsing by larger mammals (I974: 418).
Settlement in or movement through the original
cover of the Highland, then, would have been
impossible, and even pastoralists would have
discouraged unless they were equipped to manage the maquis
to their own advantage.
A second significant quality which has implications for the
exploitation of the primitive environment of Highland Canaan
has to do with the bountiful resources it offered. We have
already noted a number of trees, shrubs, and herbs with
useful products available in the evergreen maquis and forest.
This list of helpful plants could be greatly extended, and their
products would include edible fruits, pods and seeds (e.g.,
acorns from the evergreen oak, pods from the Carob), gums
(e.g., from the Mastic tree), resins" tannic add, fodder,
honey, dyes and fibers, not to mention construction timber
and wood for fuel (Zohary 1962: 213-216). The importance of
wiIdfoods even in the diets of the most sedentary and

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation & Soils

agriculturally intensive villages of the ancient Near East

should probably receive .more attention, especially from
archaeologists (Stager forthcoming). The ··vegetation of
Highland Canaan would surely have provided ampleoppor-
tunity and-even incentive for the collection and use of wild
The. density. of the maquis and forest along with the aridity
of the Mediterranean summer renders this vegetation cover
highly susceptible to fires. "The long dry summers and the
resinous character of the Mediterranean maquis shrubs made
forest fires frequent and disastrous, while the high winds of
the hot season fanned the flames" (Semple 1931: 290). The
Mediterranean maquis today does not show fires of the same
great intensity or extent of those of the analogous California
chaparral vegetation, but the present cover is much thinner
than that of antiquity. One can be sure that forest fires were
not infrequent in the primitive forests of Highland Canaan
(e.g., Isa 9.18, 10.17-19).
The rnaquis vegetation is well adapted to the occurrence of
forest fires and regenerates iteself quickly. After a fire, "the
old stumps of the burned shrubs often resprout and usually do
so before the advent of the first rain" (Went 1974: 420). Pinus
halepensis forms an exception to this rule, being propagated
solely by seed (Zohary 1962: 90). Frequent fires tend to
discourage the attainment of true height and encourage the
vegetation of the evergreen forest and rnaquis to become
more and more bush-like, favoring maquis instead of forest.

C. Causes of Deforestation

Because of these qualities - great density, resource-rich,

susceptible to forest fires - the evergreen maquis and forest
climax virtually ensured its own devastation at the hands of
those who settled in or near it or exploited it in a transient
fashion. The major causes of the deforestation which has
produced the present-day landscape are reported by Zohary
as: "the hewing of wood for industry and fuel; grazing and
browsing by goats and sheep; dearing of forest areas for
tillage; and forest fires, planned or accidental" (1962: 209).
The factors. on this list which generally receive the greatest
weight in scholarly treatments are those seen as directly tied
to expansion of settlement and increases in population.
Rowton in particular has presented a strong case linking the
deforestation of the Western Asian woodlands with the
growth of urban civilization. In fact, he argues that

Hopkins.-The Highlancls of Canaan

security: . . AAssp~en,~~ . clQmiran.~,.{fa~tor$e~ving,to··'.'pre.
v~geta tiQ11'\(196i';'t74k1Jle:exploitation of the woodland
construqiqQ.;timPer•"aneL,,fQr!"tilllb~r ,ito .".be"; used,j
manufacturei"of ,.cnarC(l;11,inquarrying, .f<;)r' burning···Jim
for heating fuel is clearly tied to settlement, and, accor
to Rowton, limited in the .Highlands of early periods by"
high cost of transport and inefficient tools (1967: 276).'
clearing of agricultural land also correlates with
expansion of settlement and/or population. Rowton
others consider the pernicious effects 'of " grazing
browsing by domesticated animals not as a primary agent
deforestation but. as' a secondary . agent which inhibitst
regeneratlon.of land·harvested fortimberordeared
agriculture that has been abandoned during acontractio
settlement. The goats and sheep act in tandem to gobbl
newly sprouted seedlings and grass roots, thus preverrting
natural forest succession and aggravating soil erosion
1975: 25-26). The independent effect of pastoralist practices
receives scant notice.
Also receiving little attention from Rowton and
the last item on Zohary's list,. the impact of fire
climax vegetation. This is odd '. not only because
Mediterranean climate presents ideal conditions for fires,
also because fire is known to have been a significant
human hands from time immemorial. Stewart persuasively
argues that early humans not only abandoned
(recklessly only from our modern perspective) to
surrounding vegetation, but deliberately set fires in
achieve a litany of subsistence and other ends (l
118-120). Among other rationales, dense forests offered
use to hunter or collector and were dangerous besides.
were used to rouse or drive game during hunting, to improve
pastures for game, and especially as a tool to procure
maintain the yield of certain desirable plants. Fires were
set as acts of war. Among pastoralists, the use of fire
improve grazing conditions ranks as its highest
"Mature woody growth provides less food for man and
animals than do fire-disturbed sites, with
growth and stimulated seed production, accessible at
levels" (Sauer 1956: 54; see also Limbrey 1975: 11
bountiful resources of the Mediterranean maquis and
would be sure to respond to this treatment and,
density, the grazing of sheep and goats can
conceived of without significant fiery inroads into the clima.X:

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation «Soils

vegetation. It is, of course, difficult to gauge the extent of

the.destruction' of the forest cover at the hands of primitive
human communities and . especially pastoralists •sincet~ey
leave .c little .: archaeologically detectable trace. .What . . is
certain, however, is the power of the treatment of the
vegetation with: fire, unleashed both accidentally and pur-
posefully by pastoralists and others.

D. Age of Deforestation

While the causes of the destruction of the vegetation of

Highland Canaan are clear, the age and range of the
deforestation are difficult to pin down. The geographically
variegated nature of the land combines with the diverse and
complex nature of the evidence to account for this difficulty.
Of the available studies of the course of deforestation in the
Levant, M.Rowton's work constitutes the most substantial
analysis (I 96 7). Rowton draws especially upon evidence
gleaned from cuneiform sources, deriving mostly from the
Late Bronze and Iron Ages, in which the references to
forested areas give the impression that the mountains of
Western Asia were then much more heavily forested than
they are today. He advises caution in accepting the "sylvan
panorama" suggested by this evidence, however, and labels
the deforestation of Western Asia relentless (see also
Mikesell 1969). The process of deforestation is viewed by
Rowton as a gradual one in which allowance must be made
for periodic expansion and contraction. He writes:
All through the third and second millennium B.C. the
forest cover was gradually thinning out. In the Bronze
Age therefore the mountainous country of Western Asia
was neither the great forest of pre-historic times nor the
bare eroded country it is today (I967: 277).
The testimony of archaeology in the Highlands of Canaan
and of biblical accounts which mention forests, trees, or
wood products does not contradict this picture of a gradual
process of deforestation though the evidence is difficult to
control. The "locus classicus" for demonstrating the extent of
forestation in pre-Israelite times and the beginning of its
clearance is Josh 17.111--18 (noted by Herrmann 1975: 92;
Bright 1981: 178; Noth 1960: 61; Borowski 1979: 10). The use
of the text is not problem-free, however, and questions must
be raised both about the applicability of this bit of individual
tribal history to any general picture of the extent of forest

Hopkins .. The Highlands of Canaan

cover cand the a s well
two.·' variClnts.o!·the; Same:ctradition"appears.to.m
reference to anexpa!1sio!1\ofthe.territory of the all'
settled •and . •. territorially constrained tribal. group, per
even into the Transjordan (Maroni 1979: 239). The date a
function of the boundary Iist ,to which this text belong
render problematic its use to define the extent of forest a
the time of the Israelite settlement.
The Hebrew Bible preserves numerous references to forest
which .cornprise positive evidence for the continuedexistence
of forested areas throughout the biblical period but which'do
not provide a solid basis for judgments about their extenta
The Hebrew word most often translated. as forest, "ya'ar
possesses a range of meanings which includes densel>f
forested areas (ya'arhallebanon, 1 Kgs 7.2, 10.17, 21; lsil
37.24) as well as maquis and garigue, the condition gainedb
land which has gone out of cultivation (Hos 2.14, Mic 3.12);
Mention is made of individual forests: "ya'ar Jeprayim (Forest ...
of Ephraim) and "ya'ar hannegeb" (Ezek 21.3, a puzzling>.
reference). Kiriath-Jearlrn's name (village of the forest) may
testify to a once well-known forest. Wild beasts of the forest
(qol-hayto ya'arv.Ps 104.20) make frequent appearances 'in
biblical accounts and metaphors. They are killed by Samson
(Judg 14.5) and David (I Sam 17.34), employed as a metaphor
for divine judgment by Hosea (13.7-8), used as a ready excuse
by the sluggard (Prov 22.13 - clearly ironic), and unleashed
Elisha on the 'forty-two disrespectful children
between Jericho and Bethel (2 Kgs 2.23). Forested
themselves were viewed on occasion as lethal
devouring more than the sword according to one battle
(1 Sam 18.8).
References to the customary use of quantities of wood for
manufacturing furniture, implements, and carts as well as
cultic practices (sacrifices: Gen 22, Lev 107ft., 1 Kgs 18.23)
may suggest the widespread availability and use of wood,
though the ability of the central government and cult to
tolerate possibly high procurement costs must be
mind. For obvious reasons, few such wooden implements
survived to be discovered in archaeological
Richest have been the furniture, bowls, and other items found
in Middle Bronze lIB tombs at Jericho (Kenyon 1976: 563).10
contrast, archaeologists have amassed ample evidence of the
use of timber in house construction.

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation & Soils

Arcnaeological'sttJdi~s r~veal a variegated use of wood

in the construction of houses in ErezIsrael. It includes
tnebuildingoI nuts'IrorrPbrancnes which· were cut down
and left inTtneirhaturalstate,the use of lumber in the
consolidation offralTles of buildings,in the covering of
wooden structures.-as columns for reinforcing walls, for
the roofing of clay,stone,or straw buildings, and for
making doors and windows (Paul and Dever 1973: 213).
The use of architectural elements of wood (stone and mud
brick .have always reigned as the primary raw materials of
construction) in ordinary house construction suggests that
accessible areas of forest were still present throughout the
Iron Age. A sign that the costs of gathering wood for such
short-term uses as heating and cooking fuel may have been
beyond some communities' means, however, comes from the
allusions to the practice of burning manure for cooking
purposes (1 Kgs 4.10, Ezek 4.15). In his study of the
deforestation of mountain environments, Eckholm has found
the destruction of the vegetation paralleled by the resort to
using agriculturally essential manure for fuel. "Farmers
facing an unduly long trek to gather firewood for cooking and
warmth," he writes, "have seen no choice but to adopt the
self-defeating practice of burning dung for fuel" (1975: 765).
In light of these competing data, it is difficult to avoid
assuming the middle-of-the-road position adopted by Rowton:
deforestation was a gradual process (1967: 277). The linkage
which Rowton envisions between deforestation and the
expansion of settlement must be loosened to a degree,
however, and his timetable qualified by including the
possibility that the vegetation of the Highland regions was
significantly reduced to a lower .form of maquis by the
activities of their non-sedentary exploiters. Focusing on the
more obvious link between settlement, land clearing, and the
exploitation of forest resources would push the major assault
against the Highlands of Canaan into the Iron Age which
experienced the greatest burst of settlement, while earlier
periods would have been marked by only sporadic attacks on
the climax vegetation in the vicinity of the less numerous
occupations. Consideration given to the use of fire as a tool
by hunter-gatherers or pastoralists suggests that the
deforestation of the Highlands was in fact well underway
before the expansion of urban settlement.
A second qualification relates to all of the so-far-
assembled evidence. However reasonable, this evidence lacks
the certainty that has been achieved for other regions by
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

palynological, investigation•. 1:heidata ': gathered by Horow i

have,been.revi~~~dab0ve lncpnnection, with the qeesti
· Ch.>4.§i). 'IJ;h~ir'. ,t~til:llQ.
regar,dillg j,!"iighla.nd'¥i9anaaf'l's,~lilTlax 'vegetatiQnandj:l
alteration byhulTlania~tivity,is no more h~lpful.1:he major).
of the pollen sequences (Hula-U.P.15,U.P.,6.tMediterran
- Y.N. 1568,but.not Krrmeret D-lO l6j2) show conspicu
overaHdeclines in, the 'j percentage'of '. arboreal. ,pollen
their earliest point (appoximately6000 Y.B.P.) (esp, 1
56). How much earlier this trend can be traced is an
question. In the Hula Borehole K-Jam .', sequence
decline is indicated from the late Pleistocene (1971:
Detailed and well-dated sequences from more sites
conceivably answer' theguestion .as to when the rl im;:,Y
vegetation began to feel the effects of human
when forest cover began to become sparse on the Hi"h,I;:,,,,rl,,,
of Canaan.

E. Consequence of Deforestation

The. degradation of, the vegetation of Highland

through ,the activities "of' hunter-gatherers and n;:,c:tt"ll";:'
differs markedly from the denudation that results from
exploitation of wooded regions for timber and fuel and
clearance of agricultural land. As explained above, the use of
fire as a means to render the Mediterranean rnaquis and
forest both passable and more productive of certain kinds of
vegetation and the subsequent pasturing of sheep and goats
tend to degrade the maquis and forest climax to a lower forill
of maquis dominated by shrubs and free of taller trees. This
remaining vegetation would continue to fulfill its role in soil
formation, the hydrological balance of the region, and as a
protector of the soil against erosion (Rowton 1965: 376),
though destructive floods would have been likely in the wak 7
of forest fires (Went 1974: lt20). In contrast, land cleared for
agriculture or combed for timber is stripped of its protective
cover and left naked before the onslaught of strong
environmental forces. First among these is the erosive force
of rainfall, and the rocky soil-depleted hills of the 'Levant
today show all too clearly its scouring effects. The
rainfall-driven erosion of soil from vegetation-bare slopes is
one of the main consequences of the destruction of the
vegetative cover and merits some consideration.
The.consequence is, that in comparison of what then was,
there are remaining in small islets only the bones of the
Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation &- Soils

wasted body as they might be called; all the richer and

softer parts of the soil having fallen away and the mere
skeleton of the country being left.
It is the sad factthat Plato's description (Cri tias, 116; see
Hughes. 1975:61) of Attica under the metaphor of the
diseased and wasted person aptly portrays the present con-
dition of much of Highland Canaan. In Zohary's words, "the
rooting out of vegetation has brought about soil erosion to
such an extent that hundreds of square miles in the midst of a
potential woodland area have become bare and rocky
outcrops" (1962: 208).
Soil erosion may be defined as "accelerated erosion, the
removal of soil at a rate faster than it accumulates, so that
the product of centuries or even millennia is dispersed"
(Symons 1978: 25). Rainfall is the primary culprit, and the
determinants of the erosive power of rainfall are: soil type
and condition, slope, vegetative cover, land use, and the
intensity of the rainfall (Symons 1978: 35). In any ranking
system the importance of vegetative cover is high, and its
absence is especially deleterious in the Highlands of Canaan
where the other determinants are such that the erosive power
of rainfall is already great. As noted above, Highland
Canaan's rain falls in high intensity, and this fact alone spells
high rates of runoff and soil erosion. 'W Ithout the vegetative
cover breaking the high-velocity fall of the rain drops, their
impact is all the greater on soil that is no longer held in place
by extensive root systems. The seasonal drying of the ground
means that the soil becomes deflocculated and less
permeable and its particles are more easily detached.
Without the shade of forest or maquis, surface moisture is
more rapidly and thoroughly depleted, so that soil erosion is
exacerbated. The hilly character of the Highland terrain
multiplies the impact of the loss of vegetative cover and the
other determinants as well. In the absence of soil con-
servation measures, the danger of soil erosion increases as
the gradient of slopes increases, and they can be quickly
stripped of soil once their vegetative cover has been removed.
Soil and vegetation are tied together as one of the first
principles of environmental science. The clearing of the
evergreen maquis and forest climax from the Highlands
results at first in the loss of the important humiferous layer
of the zone's soils which then limits the reoccupation of the
area to low maquis.. If the vegetative cover is further
decimated and the soil further exposed to strong en-
vironmental forces, "it becomes skeletic and rocky and its
!( H9pkinsy:~ H.ig~ndsolQan~al}ir

vege~~i(.)n ;.consiS1;$.i••. onlyi\o!,spar;~\.shpd)~/an<;l •.

(ZOh!!~.,·l~<i.2:.10 __1·~ l.;;.. .,.';i," rc'!~;"!;>t;;;6';;t<0;.;;·;';';~'(7.f'
signif~cam.~~~~<if-t~(.)n(.)~·~~, " f(.)y~r..9tt1,il?h!~#;~~
probl~'ratiS~·'~FtJ9i~s./()f>ia.. . ;.. ;iS~~m~~t~'}\1(;~iSh·Lin
context~ .haveen;.ibl~d~e+a.iriY:preds~da~ing'Lof.
peripds.6ferosion""ould· appea.t'tolac~ ideal.conditio
Edelstein and Kislev's.study',<.)f. agrlculturalterr.ac
Mevasse.ret .Yerushalayim.. has •concluded .... that·..... th~
accumulated behind theterrace.waUswa.sartificalI}'pui
place, perhaps originating in the vaHey bottorrlsllQ8!,:,.54
in the absence of more .detailed soil • . analysis'su
condusionabout .• the origin . of .th~ .soil is at bestte!1~.a
but it hints at. 'the··.· fairly . adval)ce~ ". st'ilte ofsI<.)p~'~r
n~cessitating the tran~port(.)fsoil,to the .Ferrac~t~t
particular spot as early as the eighth centur'y... . . ".. ,.....•.• ' ..,
The creation of agricultural terraces which help toprot
the soil base reached its peak' in the Byzantine per
evincing an intensity of agriculture commensurate with
density of population. The abandonment of these ter
systems subsequenttottie Byzantine period had an un#el)i
dramatic effect on the hllIsidesoil they h~ld in plas:~~o
Spores has studied an analogous situation in Mexico'.a.ria
shown that the destruction of the land of the Nochix
Valley since the sixteenth century,which resulted ina loss
nearly one-third of its productive potential, is "directly
correlated with a sharp decline in population, abandonment
terraces and settlements on slopes and lomas, abreakd0\l;'1)
native polity which had served as the' coordinating force
the VaHey, and a rapid economicdeclinell.(Spo~es1%9:56
The, ruins of terraces and other. agricultural· installations
Highland Canaan are eloquent testimony to this process, a
evidence in the alluvial .•valleys. and flood. plains <of
massive amounts of soil washed' down the denuded slopes
had gone out of cultivation. Reifenberg esttmates" thatt
meters of soil have been transported from the Highla
slopes since Roman times, an amount far in excess of
quantity of soil formed in natural processes (1955: J&.:l£
These circumstances, however, lie far outside the time ra
of our interest. Further work is required if a trustwor'tl1Y'
picture of the state of the soil cover and the extent of th~
soil erosion problem during the early Iron Age is to .•. ~.
creat e d . ' C j
Other consequences of the denudation of the ~egetat
cover of Highland Canaan can also be envisaged. Whyte dra

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation {;{ Soils

attention <to the vll1itroclimatic effects of the destruction of

vegemti<.ln"fespe<:;ialiyJin accritical environment like .that of
f:tighland'i;Canaan~"~Reduetionofvegetation 'to a lower stage
o!,succ:essiomalways;means ;greaterexpoSttre to ". the sun's
rays, 'a •higher,temperaturev;.and reduced "humidltyat the soil
surface, 'and the<exposureof •plants and crops, to the physical
effectsofcthesand~laden,:searinghot winds of the desert"
(Whyte 1961:68). All of these-add up to greatly increased
desiccation. This increased desiccation, coupled with a loss of
part of the vegetative source of : organic matter, spells a
sharp decrease in the rate·' oisoH formation which is
facilitated by moist conditions. Thus the decrease in shade
associated with the destruction of vegetation has a cyclical
effect, reaching to the point of denying proper conditions for
saplings to attain a foothold in the increasingly desiccated
and impoverished soil and consequently preventing the nat-
ural plant succession. In addition, the decrease in infiltration
of rainwater which is an inescapable consequence of the
destruction of vegetation also contributes to the micro-
climatic .desiccation by lowering the ground water table (see
Reifenberg 1947: 149; Butzer 1961: 45-47).
Finally, mention has already been made of the use of
manure as fuel where the absence of readily accessible
wooded .tracts is pronounced. Eckholm has labeled the
practice of manure burning for fuel "self-defeating" since it
withdraws much needed fertilizer from agricultural use
where it would boost productivity and thus serve to reduce
pressure to bring more land into cultivation which would
further reduce the availability of wood for fuel (1975: 765).

F. Soil Landscape

I. Soil Distribution and Properties

Much further work is needed to establish a trustworthy

picture of the state of the soil cover on the Highlands of
Canaan during the early Iron Age. ~ e are, nonetheless, in a
position to describe briefly the properties and distribution of
the soils beneath the forest and maquis of the ancient climax
vegetation. As might be anticipated, the picture of the soil
cover of Highland Canaan is characterized by diversity and
distinctiveness. The wide variety of soils results from the
great diversity of the ingredients which play parts in the
genesis of soils. Soils are the product of the action through
time of living matter (vegetation, microorganisms and

Hopkins .... The Highlands of Canaan

animals),.and cllmate (especiaUy.: precipitation, , temperat .

apdseasonality):onparent;rod< materials. set in pani
topggraphic :conte.xts;;(Bl'idges1970:;cl7J.·· ··:.Ml;;of;,the
factors/Whichsho).y<great~)'a~itltion.throughout .the.:Hig
thus creating:ct'><liversesoiliandscapeJJc;;;'j( .' .
Despite the importance:of .thisentire'groupingoffa
in their "formation, ,highlandCanaan's)::soHs ', '" tend to
distributed inparallel;withthe parent rockmaterial'f
which they have weathered. The distribution of the val"
superficial rocks in Highland Canaanhasalreadybeenn
in the' chapter/on" Geomorphology: the distribution of
types follows suit. Where the harder limestones and dolo .
predominate, as do those of the Cenomanian and Turoni
the Jerusalem.,$addle"terra rossasoils will be fo
Semi-hardlimestones '.' of the Eocene give rise to
iterranean' Brownx.Forest :soils such as those found
sections of the Menashe plateau, Softer limestones and
of the Senonian and Eocene weather into rendzina soils :iii
the Shephelah and the central core of the Nablus Synd
Basaltic soils are derived from the volcanic basalt of Eas
Lower and Upper Galilee. The composition of each of
soils may,due to the action of the active determinants oiS'
composition, . differ markedly from its parent material,b
the association is maintained fairly " consistently. In
valleys and intermontane basins of the Highlands, collu
soils will share the nature of the rocks and soils of
hillsides from which they have washed.
The assumption made in the reconstruction of thes
landscape of Highland Canaan in the early Iron Age is
the soils which are recognizable today represent in s
muted way the aboriginal soils of the Highlands. T
represent these soils because they are in fact relict so'
which are not forming afresh in the present state Of!
environment with its degraded vegetative aspects (Limb
1975: 204-205). Their profiles and relationships to
material (especially terra rossa which has a cherruc
composition quite different than the hard limestones
which it has weathered) testify to a long period of formati
in continuity with which these soils still stand. The dire
representation of these soils is muted, however, by
degraded state in which they now exist.
One finds scant discussion of the sources of
and the methodological problems .of reconstructing thes
landscapes of degraded environments (but see DavidS
Renfrew, and. Tasker 1976: 219). Most evidence that she

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation 0: Soils

light on the. ahcientHighland Canaan environmenfca

o~IYinde;termining the date and extent of the degr~qa!i0l"l0f
itS~ils.;Sedimental)'analysis· a nd the analysis Ofs!r~ti!ied
poll~l"l°prOduce thi~ .class of data. Changes in veg~!a~iqitiI
composition. and . increases or decreases of rates .• ()fS~i ..
mentation provide . evidence of the disturbance of soils,but
not the state or properties of the disturbed soils (Limbrey
1975: 1I 1). We must glean nearly all of our knowledge from
the study of the relict paleosols of the present Highlands and
by inference from reconstructed vegetational cover. (There is
an element of circularity here since vegetational
reconstruction assumes a certain soil environment.) The study
of the other kind of paleosols, namely fossil soils buried
below the modern soil profile and exposed by sectioning,
would provide more. direct evidence of the ancient soil
landscape. Such fossil soils, which may be preserved naturally
or beneath artificial earthworks and monumental buildings,
are, unfortunately, uncommon. No investigations of whatever
fossil soils might be discovered in the highlands have been
attempted. Ail in all, limitations on data and methodological
hedges urge circumspection in applying data about present
soils to the soils of ancient Highland Canaan.
One example of where such circumspection is necessary
concerns the acceptance of the usual reports about the
profiles of contemporary soils as true indicators of their
predecessors. The degraded state in which the absence of
protecting and renewing vegetative cover has left these
contemporary soils is understandably characterized by
disturbed horizons and in particular by the absence of topsoil
(upper A-horizons). Zohary cautions that "what has been
examined hitherto and described as terra rossa by most
authorities represents only a degraded state of this series
which has been preserved under open or devastated
vegetation, on eroded slopes, or on land under cultivation"
(I962: 10). Reifenberg's description of terra rossa clearly falls
into this category. He writes:
Apart from exceptional cases, terra rossa is deficient in
humus, a result of the calceous substratum on the one
hand and of the arid climate in summer on the other. As
a matter of fact, a low humus content is a characteristic
feature of the Mediterranean countries (I947: 73).
The soils of the Highlands, however, would have formed
originally under a tree canopy which would have prohibited
extreme desiccation even during the summer, protected the

.... Hopkins - .The Highlands of Canaan
fqr:ces, andrene~ed the upper'$
.supply of humus (Eyre 1963:
r!zon of.decomposing leaf .Ii
·ould have blanketed the soi
an under e climax vegetation. This hori
the first casualty of the erosive forces w
ed today'seroded soil landscape and wh
and large, tile maturation of the region's so
onsideratiorn; !n mind, brief portraits of the Ii
pes of Highlal)d ,Canaan can be drawn. These a
. Mediterranean brown forest, rendzina, basa1ti~,
1 soils,

rd'·limestooes·a.l'ld dolomites' of the Cenoman

predomin~~~';~:>tfteHighlands,so the soil
give rise is mc)s!'pervasive: the characteristical
nean terravrossa,' Terra rossa soils develop
?woodland ",~n~ir()t'l~et'lts.. subject to intensi
I1g and belongt?,~ry~f group of soils characterized
Ble. profile(l\~~s<()fIsrael,'''Geomorphology III
. 1970: 27). Un~e.r:~~ecover of forest and maquis,
on would .b~·?·wel1 differentiated moder,
>, ,mediate type ,of humus that develops in areas
>'~easol1al drought precludes the existence and activity
ear:~hworms, merging gradually with the mineral soil below
:(l3ptier 1964: 79). Th.e.(B)-horizon would be a well-weathered
~()rizon with lit~le"C3.c:cumulation of leached clay rni,npr'", Ie:
huJ'nus. TheC-horizon is the weathered parent material
the bedrock. c.,

"m terms ofitS chemical composition, terra rossa is low

lime content (0;,;10 percent) despite the fact that its narern
material is lirnestone (Atlas of Israel, "Geomorphology It" .... '·.·.m
Differenttates of dissolution of the carbonate and
minerals in the limestones are usually called upon to C.II.IJ>a.ul
this surprise (Reifenberg 1947: 80-84). The pH of the soil
between ().5and 7.8, so it is just slightly more alkaline ....... ;i./!,
the neutral conditions considered ideal for the absorption
all nutrients needed for plant growth. Terra rossa has
cation exchange capacity of 30-40 meg per 100 grams of
(Atlas of Israel, "Geomorphology 11/3"). The cation exchange
capacity measures the soil's ability to hold necessary
nutrients (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium
~~ciany) so that they may be taken up by plants in
growth., The range inhabited by terra rossa signals a
Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation &. Soils

good, potentialfertility/l4/. Terra rossa soils are usually

les~~anio!'1c;;'met.~I::,in>depth,.andfairly stony due to the
conti9l.!O\,ls.. ,disintegration . of the limestone parent rock
(Bridges 1970: 5&).
The physical properties of..terre rossa are hinted at by the
cation exchange capacity since this is often a function of a
soil'~da:ycontent. Beaumont, Blake and Wagstaff report that
the slay. content of terra rossa is commonly more than 50
perce.~!(I(76: 135)-. Reifenberg's mechanical analysis of two
surf(ice samples from the Samarian Highlands shows a clay
content of 4& and 27 percent respectively (1947: 77-78).
Whatever the precise figure- and site-to-site variability is to
be expected - the fairly high proportion of finely grained clay
in J~rrar rossa dictates many of its physical properties.
Because" of its clay content, terra rossa has a high
moisture-holding capacity, what appears at first glance to
offer' considerable advantages in the variable rainfall
environment of the Highlands (Beaumont, Blake, and
Wagstaff 1976: 135). But because of the nature of clay, plants
must exert a great amount of energy in order to withdraw
moisture from clayey soils so that this property is not
unequivocally positive (Zohary 1962: 11; Bridges 1970: 13-15).
Additionally, it contributes to the tendency manifest by terra
rossa .in a climate with a wet-dry seasonality to bake hard
during the dry and hot summer months and to turn to a sticky
paste with the onset of the winter rains, "viscous mud"
according to Orni and Efrat (1973: 58). These characteristics
combine to render plowing of this soil somewhat difficult in a
way that detracts from its agricultural usability despite its
high fertility. The high clay fraction of terra rossa also
decreases its permeability. Thus infiltration rates for terra
rossa are not high, leading to the collection of water on the
surface and increased erosive runoff.
Also contributing to the susceptibility of terra rossa soils
to runoff are their topographical positions. Since they are
associated with the rocks of the anticlinal structures of
Highland Canaan, they are soils of the hillsides. Terra rossas
are found in more level areas in the Judean Highlands,
especially atop the longer, more gently sloping and broader
interfluves of the Jerusalem Saddle. By and large, however,
terra rossa soils blanket areas of strong relief where
agricultural systems must contend, at least in the long run,
with the loss of the soil to erosion at a faster rate than it is
being formed anew. Ail things considered, terra rossa is
judged by most to be a productive agricultural soil, "the most

Hopkins .; The· Highlands of Canaan

fertile soil of the.mountain zone soils" (Karmon

which, however,· often ~ demands"specialtreat
continuous agricultural· exploitation.· (See below; Ch
;,:";';, , ." <' '" ',~

." b. Mediterraneambrownfo:rest soils: .'•.

~',: -. .':; "":\:": :~", ,c,':' _,,-::.<."S':{<\.: ,".',- ",::;; i;_:'~/:' -', ,?:x,-','-- .' ,:,.'::;.':',_ ,,'.:,-' ,',', '. -':;',' ",'""-_',' o"..:':tv
Sharing·m~py.o:frtfW •.BroB.erties '()fterrarossa.13-
Medit~rranean b~()v,;~.Jore~t s<.)i1swhich \\leather. fr •...
hard limestones through?utthe Highlands. Characteri
by an A (B) C profile, th~se soils cover nowhere)!
expanse ofterrar<.)ssa amfar~ often found in. complex
and. with rendzina .• soils.Mediterranean brown ... fore
may contain slightly more. )imethan .terrarossa
correspondingly more alkaline~.I~habitinga pH range
7.8. Their. cati<.)nexchange' capacity is higher, abou
meq per 100 grams of soil (Atlas of Israel, "Geomo(
II/3"; Bridges 1970:,27). Thus, they are also producti
fertile agricultural soils, more frequently covering ar
smoother topography than the physically similar terra ro

c. Rendzina soils
Less well suited for agriculture in terms of their che
composition are the rendzina 'soils which develop on 's6
limestones and chalk. Their profile differs from those of~'
other mountain soils, being composed of AC horizons.'
humus content of the Highlands rendzina is less than that
the rendzinas of more temperate regions, though under a
forest cover a humiferous topsoil would have developed.}
lime content of rendzlna soils is very high, ranging bet~e
30-80 percent, and the soils show a commensurately high
7.7-8.1. The cation exchange capacity is low, about15~\}
meq per 100 grams of soil, and, thus, these rendzina soilsci
not as fertile as the other soils of the mountains (Atlas
Israel, "Geomorphology IlI3'~Bridges 1970: 74; Zoharyl,.,,:,~,}
n), This deficiency in mineral content is agricultural!!...,'
balanced somewhat by more propitious physical properti~
and better topographical contexts. Their parent rocks for~.;'
synclinal structures often characterized by round, rolling hi~<
as in the Shephelah and the western part of the Nabl~.
Syncline. Thus rendzina soils occupy areas which are le~
susceptible to the danger of erosion and in which a great~\
percentage of the land is readily suitable for agricultllr~
(Karrnon 1971: 31). The clay content of these soils is mud;,
less than the other mountain 'soils, ranging in sampl~<'
analyzed by Reifenberg between 20-36 percent (I 947: 92)~

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation & Soils

ifhepercentages of silt and sand which combine withthe clay

ggest that rendzina soils are best described as loamy. In
onsequenceof 3its· . physical properties, rendzina is very
porous· and has . a low water-holding capacity. Thus it is
innately less susceptible to erosion, a characteristic which its
topographical contexts enhance. Rendzina is also quite easy
to work since it does not become as muddy as do the other
mountain soils. While it cannot be labeled a productive
agricultural soil, rendzina is also not "so infertile that it is
almost useless for agriculture" (Baly 1957: 20). Under a
vegetative cover, the now absent humiferous A-horizon would
have enhanced its agricultural value (Zohary 1962: I I).

d. Basaltic soils
Basaltic soils occur only in the northern Highlands,
predominantly in Eastern Lower Galilee where they cover,
sometimes thickly, volcanically formed plateaus and hills.
Like terra rossa, the darker basaltic soils are clayey in
texture. In fact, they possess a chemical composition quite
similar to terra rossa, despite the difference in their
parents. The lime content of basaltic soils varies widely
between 0-25 percent, and their pH ranges correspondingly
between 6.6-8.0. The cation exchange capacity is more or
less equivalent to that of Mediterranean brown forest soils,
approxima tely 50 rneq per 100 grams of soil (Atlas of Israel,
"Geomorphology Il/3"). The soils of the plateaus are well
suited for agriculture; slope soils are littered with good-sized
rocks and boulders.

e. Colluvial soils
The floors of the valleys and intermountain basins of the
Highlands are covered with non-autochthonous soils which
have washed down from the surrounding slopes (Atlas of
Israel, "Geomorphology II/3"). These colluvial soils derive
from the mountain soils described above and share in the
chemical composition of their parents. Their pH is somewhat
more alkaline, 7.4-8.2. Physically, these soils range from clay
to loam and thus suffer from the expected range of defic-
iencies with regard to ease of cultivation and waterlogging.
When not plagued by impeded drainage, these generally brown
soils provide productive agricultural environments which are
persistently enriched by down wash from adjoining hills.

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

2. Soils and Agriculture

While it would . be a mistake to state.the role of sol

shaping agricultural· systems ina deterministic way, it
without saying "that soil is the.fundamentalelement u
whi<:h,all traditional. agricultural , endeavors depend
above,Ch•. 2§B.1)•. Thus a full . understanding of. thepr
perties •and distribution of the soils of Highland Canaan
indispensable for picturing the nature of its agricultu
systems. Yet the question arises: How far can we go with
gross descriptions of the Highlands' soils which have ,
presented? General conclusions about the agricuitura,f
potential and challenges of the soils provide some significant
insights. Yet even apart from the methodological issue:>}
involved in the reconstruction of ancient soil landscapes"
degraded environments, these insights remain broad a
actually distant from the loci in which agriculturalsyste.
take shape and operate. At the community level wher
agriculture sustains or fails to sustain a particular populatic
in a particular environment gross catalogs of soil types, larg
scale maps of soil distribution, and general descriptionso~i
soil properties are of little account. ..-::
Data concerning the physical and chemical properties~f
soils are tantalizing, however, even on a general level; hO\JIj"
much more so on the local level; If we want to know how air
agricultural system functions in a given environment, • . a;'1
relationship which in ecological terms is characterized bya
pattern of energy exchanges, then data about soil
and the like are essential /15/. What kinds of crop
possible on the soils of a given environment? What types
crops and cropping can be sustained? Does the fertility of
soil set limits on the size of the population that can
nourished by agriculture at a given technological level?
do the types and distribution of soils affect the larld-u~e·i··.·.···
pattern? Such questions as these are increasingly
answered in anthropological studies of present-day
cultural communities by the collection of detailed,
Hied data relating to all aspects of the
of human communities and their environments
Rappaport 1968: 244-246). Such a study of a living community
is, of course, impossible for the historian, yet a
inspection and consideration of the soils which provided
exploitation base for the local community in ancient HilghJlanCI
Canaan contains some possibilities for achieving
quantifiable data. An attempt has been made at such

Chapter Five - Natural Vegetation ({ Soils

by D. \Vebley (1972) who studied the Shepnelah site of Gezer

using the method . of site-catchment analysis in order to
calculate th~. economic, (Le., subslsrencel vpotentlal of its
10cation..Webley .fir;st produced a detailed soil map of the
areasurro~ncling Gezer "and then classified the area's soils
with respect of agricultural and pastoral potential,
recognizing the variableness of this potential with advancing
technology. In his calculation of the potential of these soils,
Webley assumed certain soil-specific cereal yields which
were long-term means that took the year-to-year
variableness of the agricultural environment into account.
Necessary and likely crop-fallow rotations were also included
in the equation. The calculation of the number of humans
supportable by a given yield of grain from the soils sur-
rounding Gezer,was based upon a necessary daily minimum
subsistence intake of two thousand calories which was stated
in terms of the amount of grain per year per person. Goat
herds were also included in the calculation with assumptions
made about the dynamics of the herd (e.g., what percentage
of offspring per year) and the areal extent of its grazing
requirements. The human equivalent was assessed at the
meat of forty kids or twenty goats per year per person. The
extent of the land available for agriculture and grazing was
set at a radius of 5km for grains (maximum distance of
source from market [consumptionj) and two hours' walk for
herds. Webley calculated the potential yields of all the arable
lands within the 5km radius simply by multiplying the extent
of each soil type by its mean yiela and then reducing this
figure by the percentage of land lying fallow in any given
year. The calculation of herd sizes was made on the basis of
the total amount of land within a two hours' walk which was
not being cropped in any given year. This series of
assumptions, classifications, measurements, and calculations
led Webley to assess the population of Late Bronze Age
Gezer at 1365, a figure which he found to be in "reasonable
agreement" with estimates arrived at on the basis of
population densities in urban environments (I972: 179).
Webley undertook the above analysis of the environment of
Gezer as one part of an attempt to test whether "economic
considerations of resource availability and population size
will be the primary factors controlling site location" (1972:
169). It would, in fact, be hard to deny that these factors
were important determinants of zonal settlement pattern
along with defense, trade, and other social and political
considerations. Webley's study of Gezer may show only that

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

the seftlementofGezer .• wasec,0logically possible

perSpective; of satisfying subsistence needs in
vironment:;;Whe.ther,>!nfact,'Gezer·/·had; to
indeed dependsolely'upon 'agriculture O;1S1'c,,";1Ji SI11
altdgether. ',n
A number of assumptions which undergird
calculations are also questionable. Thus,Webley takes rij.
account of transhurnance and hunting as sources ;'of
sustenance, yet these doubtless contributed substantially.rtc,
the diet of Late Bronze Age communities, as did gathering~rt/
the forest and maquisnot to mention non-cereal prodUCe
from vineyards, vegetable gardens, and orchards. Foodstuffs
may also have come through non-agricultural pursuits by w~'lt
of trade {the size and location of Gezer are suggestive intni$,.':i
respect). All of these may have boosted the popLllatiOi1~:.
potential of the site. On the other hand, Webley also fails ~o'/;3:>
consider production for non-subsistence needs, a lack whiC!"';)~:;;
would ..lower, perhaps :considerably, population estimates
based upon productive potential. This list of qua1ificatio~s
manifests the appropriateness of Webley's own reservatiop
about the reconstruction of prehistoric farm economies i~
detail. Yet his study of the soils of Gezer demonstrates the
potential significance of a careful consideration of the soils
which support a community's agricultural system. Th~
detailed mapping of the soils of a site can lead to a better,
albeit general, appreciation of the dynamics of the local
agricultural system.

G. Natural Vegetation and Soils:

Consequences for Highland Settlement

The consideration of : the natural vegetation

landscape . of the Highlands reveals two points of
significance for the conduct of agriculture in the early ....
Age. First,the question of the extent of forestation is vital
for its implications about the demands on the settlers of this
region with respect for forest clearance and the productivity
of its soil environment. The available evidence indicates that'
the vegetation of the Highlands was not in the climax stages
at the beginning of the Iron Age, but was probably a reduced'
more Sparse form of maquis, the result of limited
urbanization and the impact of non-sedentary exploitation;
Because of this, any expansion of settlement in the Highlands
would have demanded a smaller quantity and adifferenf

Chapter Five - 1\atura! &: Soils

quality of forest clearance than has usually been imagined.

Soils on the hillsides would not have been terribly eroded,
however, and while some deleterious consequences of
previous exploitation of this environment must be assumed, a
rich soil base would have greeted agriculturalists in most
areas. Hilly lands that had been cleared for agriculture or
combed for timber in previous centuries WOUld have shown a
different picture: the susceptibility of unprotected Highland
soils, especially terra rossa, to erosion is great. Lands newly
brought into cultivation would face the same prospect. Thus,
a consideration of the place of soil conservation in their
agricultural systems must occupy a significant part of any
description of Highlands' settlement.
Second, the potential significance of the study of soils as
the zone of vital intersection between a community and its
subsistence needs points forward to the consideration of the
expansion of settlement in the Highlands in the early Iron
Age. How has the growth in the number of settlements
affected the nature of the soil environments they enjoy?
Does a consideration of the relationship between the
settlement sites and their productive bases suggest a
particular type or intensity of agriculture? The answers to
these questions can only come through a description and
analysis of the nature and size of the population of the early
Iron Age Highlands of Canaan.



Valley of Shecbem, with Mounts Ebal and Gemim.

Chapter Six


A. Introduction

HE transformation of the settlement map of the

Highlands of Canaan during the transition from
the Late Bronze to early Iron Age has been
labeled by Weippert as "the only archaeological
fact" that can be associated with the "Israel-
ite" settlement (1971: 135). However one judges the cor-
rectness of this characterization, the absolute increase in
the number of settlement sites in the early Iron Age is the
primary datum of Israel's emergence recognized and accepted
on all fronts (Bright 1981: 178; Gottwald 1979b: 195-196, 202,
655-656; Aharoni 1982: 180; de Geus 1976: 166-168; Miller
1977: 255). That this transformation of the settlement map
translates in a straightforward manner into an increase in the
size and density of the Highlands' population is often assumed
(as for example by Bright 1981: 178) without a hint that
settlement pattern is not solely a function of population size.
A thorough study of the dynamics of the relationship between
settlement pattern and population size has never been carried
out with the Highlands settlement data. This deficiency is to
be explained not only with reference to the influence of the
immigration model of Israelite origins, but as well by the
prevalence of the understanding of population as a dependent
variable of economic systems. Even such an analyst as
Gottwald, while discussing the lack of reliable demographic
knowledge about ancient Israel, skips over population growth
as an independent determinant in the formation of Israel in
favor of "technological factors" which had the effect of
producing a better-fed and multiplying population (I979b:
654-656). Also striking in this respect is the schematic
diagram of human-habitat relations published by William G.
Dever for the Central Negev Highlands Project. Standing
outside the circle of relations is "population; number,
density," the outcome of cultivation, grazing, and landscape,

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

with not even a single route for feedback shown (1980:

the marginal Central Negev Highlands the influence of
environment (landscape) and of technology (cultlvati
grazing) is certainly high relative to more optimal settin
As research into the settlement of this region
however, it is safe to assume . that the importance
particular populations able to transform the environment
to operate certain technological systems will emerge.
inadequacy of the view of population as merely a dependent
variable has been demonstrated above. (See Ch, 2 §B.3.a).
Rather than, theoretically, viewing population - its
and distribution - as the final outcome of a complex
relations or, pratically, halting when an assessment
population growth or decline has been made,.here".
question about population provides the starting pofnt, W
were the essential attributes of the emergent populafi
landscape in the early Iron Age Highlands, and how Was th
population landscape determinative for the conduct 'of
agriculture? This orientation will produce some new insights
into the nature of early Israelite society and agricultural
systems. Yet the exploratory nature of the following dis:"
cussion must be admitted•. The lack of demographic data
bewailed by Gottwald will also afflict this attempt to relate
the change in the population landscape to the conduct of
agriculture in the early Iron Age Highlands. Cautious
conclusions based on presently available data are no
substitute for the results of a research strategy designed
particularly with the collection and analysis of demographic
data in the forefront. There can be no question that this
latter is precisely what is needed if a true picture of early
Israel and its agricultural economy is to be sketched. Such a
necessity does not confront the study of ancient Syria and
Palestine alone. As recently as 1979 ethnoarchaeologist Carol
Kramer issued a similar general call:
Additional empirical data on population size and com-
position, and their relationship to site size, house size,
and number of household objects, are sorely needed, as
are data on the nature, causes, and consequences of pop-
ulation stability or change, and variations in rate of
change, particularly in non-industrial societies (I979b:

B. Settlement Pattern

The basic fact of the expansion of settlement in the

Chapter Six - Population

Highlands can be displayed in numerical terms. The results of

site surveys. that .have been conducted over the last two
decades show 136 early Iron Age settlements in the Highlands
of Judah, Samaria, and Upper Galilee compared with only
twenty-four Late Bronze sites, constituting nearly a five-fold
increase (Campbell 1968; Aharoni 1957; Kochavi 1972). Such a
numerical description of the settlement pattern reveals little
about the essential attributes of this population, however,
save for the obvious fact that it occupied more sites. What is
needed is an analysis of this pattern of settlement in terms of
the three levels of which it may be conceived as consisting
(Trigger 1968: 53). On the broadest level, attention must be
paid to the zonal pattern, the nature of the distribution of
communities throughout the region. This is not only a matter
of the number of sites in a given area (the density of €""c
settlement) but also the location of these sites, relative ''''
to each other, relative to particular geomorphological
conditions, and relative to lines of communication. The
layouts of the individual communities present another level
of analysis: the arrangement of structures, installations, and
public places within a site. Of particular importance from the
demographic standpoint are the area of the settlement and
the density of the constituent dwelling units as well as the
patterning of the latter which may give some clue as
to the social structure. Finally, the individual structures,
installations, and public places that constitute a settlement
must be brought into view. The nature of the buildings
whether domestic or special-purpose, must be delineated. In
the case of domestic buildings, the composition of the
domestic group as well as its use of the dwelling area
represent vital elements in the determination of settlement
population size. An analysis of the expanded settlement
in the Highlands along these lines requires not only
surface-survey data, but data from the excavations of. a
fairly even distribution of settlements. Fortunately the
number of both newly founded and renewed settlements of
the early Iron Age that have been excavated has grown
markedly in the last decade (reviewed in: Aharoni 1982:
159-179; Lapp 1967; A. Mazar 1981: 32-36; de Vaux 1978:
673-679). (See Map 3 [p.326].)

1. Community Layout

Beginning with the level of community layout, certain

characterizations of these settlements can be made. The

Hopkins- The HighIandsof Canaan

settlements were smaUbyanystandard~St~~~rrepClrtSf:'

theiave~a8e'sizeoftheviIJages in th:e;Highlaflds()f,JJudah
Samaria:wasabout.5,<tdes (2nci)t 1976:' 13).,;That 1Hem
size.' mayweHibe ." beloW'this" figure 'is" soggeS1edby the/fa
that· smaller .sitesmoreeasHY'escape·motice.: In ':additio
estimates of sizes collected ina survey of excevattonrepo
cluster at the lower end of the scale, viz. <in order of si
'Izbet Sartah 0.40 ha
Tel Hcirashim 0.45-0.50
Giloh . 0.50-0.70
Tel Esdar 0.78
Bet lur 0.85
Tell Qid 1.00
'Ai 1.00
Tel en-Nasbeh 1.SO (?: Iron II size)
Shiloh 1.80 (?: MB size)
Tell Beit Mirsim 3.00
Tel Masos 4.50
Hazor 6.10 (n)
Some of these small sites were surrounded by fornflcatrons,
while the majority shows no evidence of a defensive wall.
Tel Harashlrn, Tel Masos, Tel Esdar, Tel en-Nasbeh, rlrl/.''''_'
and Tell Qiri are among the unfortified sites, while 'Izbet
Sartah, Bet Zur, Bethel, and Giloh belong to the former
17 category.
It has been suggested that the arrangement of the buildings
of the unfortified settlements compensated for their lack of
a defensive wall• • •,• • • an~in particular are
taken as examples' of the arrangement of.buildingsin
continuous lines forming a somewhat circular complex (Shiloh
1978: 50). However, the attribution of this arrangement to:
security considerations is shaky as contrasts between these
two sites show. At Tel Esdar the entrances to the houses face
inside the perimeter they create, while the opposite situation
prevails at Tel Masos, Yet it is precisely those buildings
whose entrance ways face outside at Tel Masos that actually
share walls or adjoin. At Tel Esdar the houses are only near
neighbors. Such perimeters, then can be called defensive only
in a very limited sense, and it is more probable that they
more or less contained the site rather than excluded the
surroundings. Along the same line of reasoning, Fritz labels
-; Tel Masos an "enclosed community" (1981: 6j)~ In a recent
study, Braemer considers Tel Esdar with its isolated houses

I 140
Chapter Six - Population

arranged nonetheless in some circular pattern' to '(be/a

preliminary (attempt ,at > town .orgaruzatien, Te $Os
advances a stage further in that it contains n~t onlY"/J~
of Jinked houses, but public buildings and acentralJxstr~t
(Br:aemer 1982: 20)• Yet it too includes some isolated hotises
and much empty space in its midst. Noting the existencehf
building 1000 at some 150 meters from the house chain atTel
Masos, Kempinskisuggests that the "fortified settlement
served only as a nucleus for a wider scattered settlement"
(1978: 37). Even if the chain did not have defensive functions,
this arrangement of a settlement nucleus or focal point
accompanied by a scattering of isolated houses or activity
loci has its parallels somewhat later in this same northern
Negev. In the tenth century, Horvat Haluqim, Ramat Matred,
and. Horvat Ritrna present clear examples of dispersed
settlement in this region (Braemer 1982: 18-19).
Another type of house arrangement may have had de-
fensive functions according to Bra who int~rJ: ,t~.Jhe
clustering of domestic buildings a ..., "in
this way. "This grouping of houses centered on a point," he
writes, ..was' able already to constitute of kind of defense
against the exterior" (1982: 22). Callaway has reported three
such clusters of houses distributed around a central court in
area S at Kh, Raddana (usually including one larger house
along with smaller ones) and has drawn implications about
social structure rather than defensive needs (1974: 92; also
Harmon 1981: 13). Obviously the two are not incompatible.
Whether the distribution of pottery and artifacts in these
houses will support the social-structural interpretation is yet
unknown (compare McClellan's attempt (1977) at this type of
The recently excavated site o1f~has produced an as
yet unparalleled sitearra,ngement:'The domestic dwelling is
adjoined by a large enclosed courtyard built of massive stone
walls. One would expect that the inhabitants attributed to
this courtyard an importance commensurate with the effort
required by its construction, though exactly what this was is
not certain. The excavators. guess that the courtyards served
as corrals for livestock (A. Mazar 1981: 11-12).
The presence of large courtyards at Giloh, a nuclear house
chain and dispersed buildings at Tel Masos, and converging
clusters of houses iat Kh, Raddana and tAi gives the
impression of greatly varying densities of buildings and
associated structures at these sites. This impression may
be quantified, but even where precise data are available,

Hopkins -The Highlands of Canas 11

the methodological ;problem "Of >proportionality ~hedges

usefulness,lof ,thel'inUmb~rs.ilJnless• 'the.. entire;stratum
panieulat"lsite :hasroeerr.;excavated; it lis dangerousdto'as
that the. ,excavatedPQrtipo;accurately represents' the site
whole;; in1Jterms10f;;the:mumbers .of and kihdsbf buildin
Giloh, .for rexample,wouldcontain ·tenoomestic. units Ii
the o.one excavated if . the;: area excavated>represeot~
porportionally the site as a whole. Thus one could calculate a
domestic building to area ratio of between 14-20/ha for this
site. Six . domestic,buildingsarecertain wlthinthe 0.14ha
excavated port ionofTel Masosarea A, yielding a buHdingt<1
area ratio of 44/ha.Yetthe fact that excavations at the
center of this site showed that there were large empty spaces
suggests v-that Area ·Ais in fact not porportlonalfy
representative of the site as a whole and that this figure
would have to be reduced•.Data are not available to make
such a calculation for1Ai,though Harmon suggests that there
were not more than twenty domestic buildings on the 1.0 hci
site of 'Ai, giving a ratio of 20/ha. Yet compared with the
figure for Giloh with its large courtyards, twenty houses per
ha would appear to underestimate significantly the
occupational density of this site, a density which
the site plans of the Kraus excavations. Figures that
perhaps more representative of their respective sites are
available for the iron II period: Tell Belt Mirsim (50/ha), Tell
el-Farah IlIB (56/ha), Tell el-Farah lIlA (50jha), and
Beersheba U (42/ha) {Shiloh 1980b: 29; Herzog 1978: 42). The
fact that Tel Masos compares more favorably with these Iron
H towns than... with its. own Iron I contemporaries is
conspicuous and may be a further clue about the inaccuracy
of the ratio calculated.

a. Non-domestic buildings
While the domestic buIlding characterized by pillare~
construction and comprising two,three, or four rooms ca'i!
justly be labeled thetypicalbuiJding of early Iron A e
Highlands' sites, it is by no means the exclusive type. A
the typical domestic buildings are joined by buil g:i
obviously different. architectural style, perhaps public
buildings and metanu~gicworkshops(Fri tz 1981:65-68 make~
mu<:h of ,this architectural diversity). A. public building
(pillared) may alse) b~fe)undamong domestic types at Kh.,
Raddana where it houses a large cistern and rock-cut pits
Chapter Six - Population

(Callaway and Cooley 1971: 12-H). At structure,

dernonstrablycultic . in nature from finds it
produced, emerged from Stratum XI and included paved areas
and some pillared construction . (Yadin 1972: 132-H4-). ··The
major building excavated at proved to be a
~~:i~~ l~~S· ~q~~~:e(6~i: (Ah~roni ~~;~~O~ojrt~~"
pillared buildings that had been labeled "houses" at tli'tr·tlme
of their initial discovery can now be interpreted as storage
buildings because of their architectural design and the large
quantity of storage jars (mostly collared-rim) found within
them (Finkelstein,Lederman, and Bonimovitch 1982: 149). As
already mentioned, Giloh contains stone-walled courtyards
adjoining the domestic building, the size of which suggests
their inclusion on any list of structures at early Iron.Age sites
(A. Mazar1981: 11-12).

b. Domestic buildings and associated

pottery types and installations
Domestic building. A great deal of energy has been devoted
to the analysis of the typical structure of the early Iron Age
settlement sites in the Highlands, the domestic building or
house. Most of this work highlights the distinctive
architecture and construction of the so-called "four-room
house." It is Shiloh's widely accepted thesis, in particular,
that the four-room house constructea with monolithic square
stone pillars is "an original Israelite concept" (I970: 180)
and, thus, "a real trademark of Israelite occupation" of
the Highlands (Aharoni 1982: 163). The house plan is
characterized by a rear room spanning the width of the
structure from which three long rooms stem perpendicularly
(Shiloh 1970: 180). The principal room in this plan is the rear
room. Other common plans, e.g., the ''three-room house," are
subtypes of the basic four-room design (Shiloh 1970: 186). The
plan has been described in somewhat different terms by other
scholars who have disputed the appropriateness of the
designation "four-room house" (Fritz 1981: 63; ~right 1978:
151) and have emphasized the focal nature of the central
area (called often a "court") rather than the rear room
(Wright 1978: 151). Nevertheless, Shiloh's portrayal of the
basic design of the house as well as his attribution of its
creation to the Israelites remain fundamental components in
most conceptions of Israelite village and town existence in
the Iron Age.
All of these above-mentioned studies of the domestic
Hopkins~Jhe Highlands of Canaan

dweHingofthe.lt'pn Age,: however, have now been edipse(J

I;t'§iQf:<)!i~q.SIl1~l",;.u.~t~e.l1}J;:f: ,la.kes~s, the.stCl~,ing •. point.
ge~.erallYL.J§it'ge;f;,thafl}Jhe•••9 t hel". aSS9.~ate9·p::)oll1s,a
whi<:h~.~.rYesa,si?thecenterof. the. structure's . . syste
circula.t~on«19.&2t.<40} /Ill. Types of houses are.
dist~nguished byth~ number and 'ne:tture of the sides. of
centra! rectangle upon which srnaller ,rooms border. Shii
"~qllr-rooll1,~110Usen thus.becornesasub-:-typeof a Jar
complex].qf plans,oneinwhich the rectangular spac
bordered by rooms .00 three of its side• .It iSe:t ma 'or t
aPPearing in fqrty-sixexamples on fourteen sites, but not
basic.type.Q:?r:;aefl)er .19&2: 70}. The..house whoserectang
center.,)s);>'0rd e red by two rooms ~omprises an equal num
of appearances on a slightly larger number of sites, forty
examples on J)ineteen sites (Braerner 1982: 60).
Braemer .notes several features which unify the dive~ e
types of house in his typology: a principal rectangular spac:~
as a cen!ral . feature, the frequent association of a mor~
narrow ro()m~ith the larger space, and.fairly constant width
of thTlarg~rand smaller rooms~ Yet there are elements()~
the .plans 'rVNc:h render homes. distinctive: the dimensions~
diff~r~ntsub-::divisionsof lateral and transversal rooms, tti~·
nature. of the separations between rooms (solid walls v~:
pillars), and differences in the system of circulation created
by the placement of the main entrance way and the presence
or absence of stairs. Braemer's results demonstrate a unity "f
conception.' despite the variety of solutions adoptedt"
particularvdcmestic needs and situations. He notes, as weH,
the existence of different models of domestic architecture
which make an appearance from time to time (1982: 93-9..5,
, Along':\Vi!hdIsputing Shiloh'smorphologica! focus on tfi~
''four-r~ornhouse,"Braemer also shows through a chrono-
logical and .regiohal survey that this basic type of house
architecture was not limited to the areas of Israelite occup-
ation, unless one 1$willing to extend the .limits of Israelite
cultural Influence beyond any reasonable bounds, He writes:
The appearance at the end of the 13th century of these
types of plans associated with the pillar technique; their
intensiye,ptilizatioo in the J Zth century in the Negev,

i the ,Judean-:~ian rqgtUands, and the Esdr:aelon; then

after a timelag, at the end of the 11th century in the
coastal plain; thesilr.ultaneous presence of almost all the

Chapter Six - Population

types at Tel Masos and Tell ,Qasile, 00 sites,:,Lwith

.agr~<:,::,lt1Jral,pr(,)to-urban, and url:>anchar~cteJ;":thesf.!<are
th~mostm~r\.:ed .yait~.,.of"the;:;eadY:!.lroo ,'t\ge!:;I:(he
hYPoJhesisoJ y. Shiloht , distinquishingaregionof;~~f.! '
formatipnofthese.types at.rthe end. of the 11th century
(Judah-Samarla) from ..which there 'occurred a phen....
omenonofdiffusion into the zones occupied by the
Israelite population, does not seem to us verified by the
recent discoveries inthe Negev and coastal plain. It does
not permit, moreover, one to explain the houses of this
type at Tell Qasile and Tel Sera where the population
was very likely Philistine 0982: 103, 105).
The functions of the various rooms or areas of the
dornesticdwelling have not be,en fully determined, and
substantial ,disagreement exists regarding a number of
significant points. At the top of the list lies uncertainty
about the nature of the principal rectangular space: was it in
fact a courtyard? Wright is the major advocate of a positive
response to this question. He bases his view that the central
area was an open court on the presence of certain
installations in this area (especially in house 1727 at Shechem
where a kiln and silo were found), on its variable width
compared with the other segments (but see the table of room
widths provided by Braemer 1982: 95), and on the observation
that access to other rooms is gained exclusively through
the center (197&: 151). Of these, only the presence of
smoke-creating facilities appears to have any cogency since
variability in size can be accounted for by a variety of
functional reasons, and the role. of a room in the
communications system of a house can hardly be correlated (J
to whether or not it is roofed. To the impracticality of a roof t''''''
over an area where fires are kept, the existence of ovens arid H,<~1I.il
similar installations in side rooms,generally considered as ~~
roofed areas (contrast Albright 1943: 50-52), presents~.
contradictory evidence. Among the early Iron Age houses, Tel '
Esdar no. 90 contains a cooking spot in the corner room.
House no. 88 at Tel Masos includes ovens in both the central
rectangle as well as the transversal rear room (see the plans
collected by Braemer 1982: 210, 253; most excavated
dwellings preserve no indications of the 'location of ovens).
The variation in the location of ovens is consonant with the
existence of outdoor, warm-weather and indoor, cool-weather
ovens reported by Kramer (I979a: 147-14&, 156) in the Zagrps
village of Shiihabiid. Moreover,at this site hearths which
provide heat are located exclusively in the roofed living area.

The·total pIcture proVid~dbYtlle$ectata(ishal-#l}"e~nSr

central7f."ectangUlal'r'1pface'!~a.· . . ' '" ..ea;t:as'
contends.in;~dditio~it;ls; ••..• ". -»: i~t~trtj!asn
(I 984 ,~4)does,.thatcthe.She<.itt:~0f~~e:tlPorf~wl'tidl
primarily based '. hisconclusionsean,inToo' ,V/aY"be
typical <.of.••Its type, (ias 'the . . . absence';;l;of"1'iUars'ta
indicators. of .industria1activity;suggest~;'Moreover,· th~
of theShechem house (8th <;~ntury) makesit'partic
inappropriate as ·.a; modeldor,the;,early,'lron Age;do
dwelling.Jn .absence 'of ;atonvincing .:casejthat'thecen
space was unroofed, and given ,the generally'sm<:lil siz
these buildings as\\;'f!ll ast~hcirsflness .of ;;.thedim
conditi()fls. in .b()th •th~raif)~()al<~. ,a~.~un-;<ir~nched··seci;
it .appears best ;.tp.as~wne.'.;.~n~~~·,.~~·ineqe .the'i...•. '
rectangle into. a properroo~(s(){USB.;lv~<;C:lellan.1977:}~':
The presence or' absence()f~second.stpry.is alsoa.;m~
of debate, As proof of the existence'ot' an upper story,Wri
points to debris in Shechemhouse n().1727, "fallen polisb
hard. plaster floo.rIragments,hard.as;<::~mentand hi
polished by cleaning' anduse"(1~Z~:151jBeeb,e 1968:(52).
evidences . only . theuse.pf th~·rooffOr.some frequ
'activities, however, and not ..tne.f!xistence 01 a full sec'
story. ,.McClellan. has . argued thafi~js.pr~cisely the. freque.
use of roofs for any number of domestic activities (Iaund~¥
drying, crop drying, storage, and sleeping during the hot
summer months), as can be .observ~d.on the flat., roofs.9i
houses in the contemporary ..M!ddl~ Ea.~t, rather thalla f .
second story, thataccounts for ,the occasional
• . .. ..:'.. ..•..: ': ,......~'.',
.' :
.. "". "'-'-::.> ,," -," .. - .'.,:'-' ,', • :. ..
stairs. Indeed, the placemelJ,\pfst~Irs7usually10 p~rIphe
ra.therthan central,loc~tions ~syggests that they "did ••"
lead to the pril~Jary. dwelling are.Ci" • . (1977: 19-20). ' Braein J
notes that stairs didf)()t ha\f~ Cl fi~ed place ,inth~ plan. of ~
dome~tic building, but werev,ar~otisl¥Jo<:~t~d inJ~e interi
and 'on the' exterior 'of 'thestrudures (1982:'99). 'Be
McClellan (I977: 20) and. Braemer (1982:. 99)~re, therefot~
skeptical of the' reguI~rpresenc:e. of a seco~d story, as.t~~
primary place ofresiden~efortheiJ}habitants?tthesehouse~~
The distribution of ' paved areas 'within the domest15 A •

buildings has also call~d fortb.explanations. \\fright has not~

the greater frequency of pav~ment In the. lateral rooms of
thf! hOlJse as opposed tptbe5~llt~aI~~a(I9.~8:15I)~ House
not ,8 at,9ilohprovid~~agoOq~~Clmg~e . ()t;th.~~ .tr()w,t~e,?Cir!X
Iron Age 10 'IIhld1. th~ eastern l~ter~l roo~, beWild tl1~ ro\\;'pi
pfUa:rs"was paved 'with beateir'earthcombined with.tlal
~ . ".. . ".. , - ; . .... . -+.)'}; ",;,,;. ; "r~ .' ,~.~

Chapter Six- Population

stones arranged unsystematically", while the rest of the floor

Was:li>eatenearth»or.>exposed •. . bedrock (A. Mazar 1'81: 8).
Pavement ',also 'covered ,fully>theroom opposite the entrance
:1:.2. at .·~Izbet <Sartahh(a~~dm.thatiwould· ·ordinarily·. be a lateral
'~2. room.except' that in this example . •. the entrance has shifted)
Ai; and partly covered the lateral room of Tel Masos house no. 2.
The'lz;betSartah boiise-alsopossessed apaved entrance way,
as does the rather Indecipherablehouse SE 12/3 from stratum
~i B2 atTell Beit Mirsim (data drawn from Braemer's catalog of
fB houses, 1982:1&1,'238,' 253). Wright has suggested that the
f< paveda:reas were used as . Ilvestock-quarters for the farm
1, animals as well as tor-storage' (197&:151). Such a suggestion
~~> makes·good sense. Stager (forthcoming) has provided ad-
e; ditionaYsupport for this hypothesis b~ noting the small size
of the passageways created by the pillars that often de-
lineate. this.sideroom .and by his interpretation of the
"draln-pipestructure'' uncovered by Lapp at Tel Ta'anek (12th
Century B.C.E.) as a domestic house (so also Braemer 1982:
287) equipped with fodder bin, .mangers, and a tank for
watering .: farm animals. One reservation about this
interpretation •of the function of the lateral room of the
hOeusestem~fromthe placement of the entrance to this
room. In houses with only one lateral room, access to the
area behind the pillars is generally gained at the far end of .
the house away from the main entrance (Braemer 1982: 64).
Where two lateral rooms are present (the "four-room house")
both near and far passageways are found, where they can be
distinguished. Tel Masos house no. 88 possesses a much larger
opening into the lateral room near the main entrance, but at
Giloh no.&;the first pillar near .the main entrance is a
pilaster; hinting that access was gained at the other end of
the house (A. Mazar1981: 8). If this were the case, then
animals .?being iledto their stable would disrupt the entire
central room on their way. Variation in the location of the
entrance to the side rooms along with variation noted in the
specific area paved caution against attributing too great a
degree of.. standardization .to early Iron Age domestic
A. sec<:>..nd, general caution concerns the absence of any
broad-based .evidence for the function of the rooms or space
of these buildings. No attempt has been made on a significant
scale . to.cgrrelate , .. artifacts and .: installations found in
part i<:ula,rrooms with. particular functions. McClellan's study
of,patterns'jn the co-variatlon of artifacts excavated from
the.h.ouses of,TeU.Beit Mirsi~ Stratum A treats their

I ~istribUtion
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

in' ~ouses,thr6l!ghouti<the< site., but not

~rtiRW~~rg~!TI~.9f",t~~illOl!~S'Jl?!l::l7..34J"50Jne >gro '..
art~~~~ ···~DO'>V,.strQ~g.~ciati~QsU\vith"partiCt;t1ar ?buH

I (~Ocg.;.p~!e-ri}°lJthjar~r*ith;in~ustrialbllildings)twhile·'•.
a~e .rTl()re .<:()ri)W()I1 ) n c~r~ainse<:t()rs9.fthe. ,site (e.g"t st o
item~ in ti1et;l()rtheast quadrant}.l'v!cCleIIandid notatte.
or \VasunabI~ because of ti1e nature of the data,toascer
whether. for example, storage .items were morecommol'lP'
the lateral rooms..of domestic .houses or cooking pots inI
centra.l., rectangula.r$paces•. The .distrlbutlcn- of artifactsd
domestic bui1dil1gs. was also left unconsidered in Brae
workwbish. concentrated on architectural design. He note
c0l'1duding his study that a .complete portrait has not
r~':Per~(j.uI1JiJ the ,', necessary i;~alysis'of .installations
n()YSj~()I(j:g()()dSha~been C~ndlJcted(l982:157>.
'.Pottery types and ·instaIlations.'W.hile lac:king. the kind'
systematfc, statistical analysis thatwo.uld develop fuHy
implications of the material remains of early Iron
settlement sites, certain regularly encountered pottery trp
and installations deserve' brief mention in this context, '!
association of characteristic pottery techniques and for ','
with the early Israelites has long been a' part of ,
archaeological tradition (Albright [I 960] 1971: 118). \\hile
similarityof basic early Iron Age pottery forms with those
the Late Bronze IIB period has been noted, distinguishing
characteristics are stressed. Thus Ruth Amiran introduces
Iron Age pottery in her corpus:
The continuity between the Canaanite pottery culture of,
the Late Bronze and Iron Age pottery culture, including
both Israelite and other pottery, is clearly apparent
On the other hand, the profound changes brought ~ ........ +.,,,.
in Canaan by the settlement of the Israelite tribes
easily discernable in various material phenomena,
and foremost in the pottery [e.g., burnishing instead
painting] (1970: 192).
The ethnic attribution' of certain pottery types
Israelites is commonplace in archaeology and historical'
reconstructions. Maroni, for one, labels the characterisnq
pottery of the early Iron Age Highlands "conquest
(}982: 174). It is marked by a decline in pottery technique
gritty' clay and non-uniform firing· - and dominated by
kinds of vessels with distinctive 'attributes: the cooking
with an elongated, triangular rim and often loop handles;
the collared-rim pithos, Despite its widespread acceptance,'
Chapter Six - Population

this ethnic attribution fails to be convincing on rneth-

odologicalandhistoriographic· as well as substantive grounds.
Weippert%has;r~ised>animportantquestion a bout the extent
to which changesin potterystylescanbe.taken as indicative
of changes inpopuiation (l97l:H33-134;de Geus 1976:168;
Ibrahim 1978: 123).'i,'He adds force to this question with
examples where too rnueh. in the way of inferences about
population movements has been asked of ceramic analysis.
The propensity to correlateartifactual change with pop-
ulation • change betrays a historiography wedded to viewing
change as the result of exogenous processes. It operates, in
Mendenhall's strong words, "under the monstrous hypothesis
that the ancient peoples involved were absolutely incapable
of;any kind of • economiccitechnologlcat, or social change"
(1973: 150)."Thus those who would attribute certain changes
in the pottery culture of the early Iron Age Highlands to the
ethnic entity "Israel" are caught in the double bind of a
restrictive and untenable view of social change and a circular
argument which assumes the presence of large scale
immigration, of which artifactual change, so interpreted, is
then offered as proof.
The Characteristics' of the regional distribution of the
collared-rim pithos demonstrate how substantive grounds for
this attribution are also lacking. Ibrahim's study (1978) of this
jar shows that it appeared not only in contexts associated
with Israelite settlement, but also at east Jordanian sites
which must be associated with other peoples (Sahab is the
best example). Not only are there non-Israelite contexts
which contain the collared-rim pi thos, but there are Israelite
sites which do not (Tel Masos being a notable example), a
fact which also leads A. Mazar to reject these pithoi as
indicators of "Israelite" settlement (1981: 30). The pithoi are
nonetheless characteristic of the early Iron Age expansion of
settlement in the Highlands. The explanation for this pheno-
menon rests, however, not in the ethnicity of those who
settled in this region, but in their social, historical, and
economic situation (so also Ibrahim 1978: 124). A. Mazar has
arrived at the same view of the typicality of these vessels:
This fact may be explained by the role played by these
pithoi in the daily life of the settlers. The pithoi could be
used as containers for grain and water, and would be an
essential item in the early Israelite house, together with
the cooking pots. Indeed, these two items make up the
bulk of the pottery inventory at both our site [Giloh] and
other similar settlements (1978: 30).
Hopkins,:,:Jh~ Highlandsl>iCanaan

The. eoUared-rim,; pithoiYbelong;*;,in'Dther "wordsi' to·

consteHati~n.of'material' and'$dC~J~~~etsY1Qfear1yhJr
settlement .·Whichal'eiadaptati()~'ifor;~ingisubSist
thevariableHighlandsenvi:o~tlJ81~i(EiJji'''''i('. ·.i"; ,.,
Theslze of, these eonared~irnJ)ithc;iireflec:tsavita.i'
this .respect. Amiran'deseribesthepithos'asa;!'ve
container.> reaching I.ZOm,· or ,more in height,wbose·'.
clearly .indicates thatit .was used for domestic storage'!·.(
143). Early Iron Age examples reported witb measurerri
include: one from Hazor.fca, H5cm; Amiran 1970:'pl':i~~
Bethel (ca.117cm; Kelsol968:pl.I7),'anoa numbec'fl\
Sahab OlO-115cm;)brahim 197&: 11.5).lt is a scandal
none of the usual sources(e.g.,Amir~n's corpus) or' W
cited above report estimates of the capacity of this.jad
case of the later;'lrnlk"storage jars is notablydiffe.
for a suggestion regarding the use of the royal, stamp
means of guaranteeing standardization prompted attem
determine the capacity .of this jar, The complete "lrnlk
from Lachish measure about 60cm inl1eight and have ea
ties averaging 45 liters (though the amount of deviatio
significant) (Ussishkiri 1978: 77-80; Grace 1956: 106-10n
these "lrnlk" jars, known, to have been employed in the tr
of foodstuffs, predominantly wine (Rainey 1983: 61), shri
comparison with the volume of the collared-rim pithol...R
calculations. give the capacity of . these jars at. about;
liters, approximately three times that of the "lmlk" jar: 11
Filled with either water (ca. lkg/I) or grain (wheat
O.7&kg/l, barley ca. O.62kg/l), these pithoi would constit
extremely heavy burdens; Such- a weight would radie
restrict the use of these jars in trade, such as is mistak
assumed by Ibrahim (1978: 12Z-124). The jars themselves
have constituted items of trade, though evidence for,th
manufacturing sites is not yet available (see A. Mazar [19
30] who argues from the variety.ofrim shapes to a va .
of production centers), but they were obviouslyinst
permanently where they were used. The discovery»
collared-rim pithoi at settlements of so-called "se mi-nom
to whom, for example, Yadin attributes Hazer XII (1972: 1
suggests the sites served as home bases for their occupa
Filled with barley, a single pithos could supply two thous
calories per day, enough for aisingle person for about~;~.
months, based on. Weble¥,s figures for human dietary n~ed$
and the caloric value of barleyf! 97.2: 177). ,...' . .. '
For the purpose of storage, ' pithoi were joined on sites~"
the early Iron Age settlement expansion by grain-pitsJ(fi
. . ·c.:""",V'.

Chapter Six - Population

into the ground. Borowski has noted that terminological irn-

l pr~iSion'inarcha~legi<:al reports hampers study of .. Iron
~: Age'sto~a~efadnties,arid'he attempts to being some order
~; to:the' chaos by ,. suggesting definitions •. . (1979:107). A
.~. ugrain-pit"'isftasmaU' stone-lined or plastered pit used for
storing grain in bulk." A ':silo" is a; larger subterranean
facility of' the' Same purpose. That grain was stored in these
facilities is for the most part a guess since seed remains are
not often recovered. Specimens of wheat and barley are
reported from Persian period silos at Tel el-Hesi (Stager
1971: 86). Sometimes these facilities are in close association
with domestic buildIngs. At IIzbet Sartah, for example, some
of the pits are attached to the house, while numerous others
pocket the area'justoutside its walls (Demsky and Kochavi
1978: 24). Other early Iron Age houses containing what are
most probably grain-pits are found at lAi, Tell Beit Mirsim,
Bethel, Kh•. Raddana, Tel Masos, and Hazer, The discovery of
these pits both in and outside of individual domestic buildings
may warrant the adjective "ubiquitous" in describing their
occurrence (Demsky and Kochavi 1978: 24).
The location of these grain-pits in domestic contexts wins
support for the view that they served the needs of individual
families rather than larger communities. Completely filled,
the grain-pit in house no. 152 at 'Ai, measuring 0.90m in
diameter and 2.80m in depth, would hold about 7,000 liters of
barley, enough to sustain ten persons over the course of a
year or half that number for two years. The value of these
subterranean grain-pits cannot be doubted in a region of
erratic precipitation and crop yields, yet the contribution of
grain storage to subsistence security should not be over
estimated. Except in the most arid areas, storage of grains
beyond the needs of a single crop failure (that is, more than
two years) was not to be expected (Colson 1980: 21-22; but
contrast Stager 19.7l: 88, n.9).
Cisterns for storing rainwater and water transported from
springs constitute another frequently encountered installation
in early Iron Age sites. Such rock-cut, pear-shaped pits could
be lined with waterproof lime plaster or dug into
impermeable rock /20/. lAi provides numerous examples of
the latter where the settlers took advantage of the
impermeable Senonian chalk to hew a cistern in every house
of the village. The excavator of the site takes this for
evidence of "an appreciable sophistication" on the part of the
Cistern builders (Callaway 1975: 51). At 'Izbet Sartah, on the
other hand, rock-cut cisterns are located only "here and

Hopkins .. The ,Highlands of Canaan

there'\ and are. <described by ; the: excavators -as

(Demsky·ao(LKq.<;.tl~vi:1978:21). No cisterM,::),\lhat
discovered (l~jGi1qh 'A. Mazar ·1981; . ~.3~ :rh~J e
rock-cut ciste.rns 1o,early Iron Age villages is not
is forgrain-:p1~L.cle.spite the over-whelming. pr
cisterns attAi and at the Iron II town of Tel en-Nasbe
which was also settled at this time (Broshi 1977: 916).'

Chapter Six - Population

ialpyramid that render his calculations all the more

~,attempto:fD;'!Webley·. to calculate' the population of
ientGezer based upon the economic potential of its irn-
aiate environment was reviewed above (Ch. 5 §F.2). Even
the welter of assumptions such a study of agricultural
tentialrequires could be brought under control, the result
ouldremain an indication of the population which mixed
farming could potentially support around a particular site.
Such calculations can be useful as pointers to the existence
of l'lon-agriCulturalpressures, networks of exchange, and
political relations when the potential population they suggest
deviates substantially from the actual population as measured
by other means, but they hardly produce trustworthy
absolute measures. The same holds true for M. Broshi's
attempt to estimate the size of the population of Roman-
Byzantine Palestine on the basis of its grain-growing capacity
as known from the pre-State-of-Israel 20th century. So many
assumptions are demanded by this method that it pushes
credulity to its limits. Indeed, many of the assumptions made
by Broshi are fallacious: that the percentage of grain in the
diet is invariable, that all of a single year's harvest was
consumed in that year, and, above all, that the grain-growing
capacity of a region is a constant over time (until the
agricultural revolutionl) (1980: 6-7; see also l'vlayerson 1967:.
43). In fairness to those who employ these methods of
estimation based in some way on subsistence potential, it
must be noted that they always emphasize the maximal
character of the estimates so derived. The desire to arrive at
a maximum figure stems from the desire to dislodge the
incredible overestimates that have in the past marked opinion
about ancient population. Even the maximal estimates are
tiny in comparison to some classical reckonings.
The most systematic and fully presented attempt at
population calculation for ancient Israel is that of Yigal
Shiloh who relies upon a density coefficient (number of
persons per unit area of settlement sites) to estimate
populations of Iron Age towns (I980b: 27-30). Shiloh's method
is based upon the assumption that towns of the same type will
share the same density of occupation. Tell Beit Mirsim St. A
is chosen as the representative site on which to base a
determination of occupational density because of the clarity
of its town plan and the definition of the kinds of buildings
and spaces it permits. Shiloh calculates the density of its
occupation by estimating the number of dwelling units that

Hopkins :-;The Highl;ands 9fCanaan

would be contained by the \'Ilhol~,§i~~ Q9Jh~.;p;a~

excavated. portion; multiplying then~m~ero~i9\Y
by.anaveragE; family si?e,andthe.ndiVjdivg~,;t
ofoc~l!pantsby.' tl)~ JotaL<(lrea .• ()f 'ithe.~i't.e..,..\;EQ
Mirsim .• S't~A Shiloh ·.finds J 64 ,dw~Ilir\g . uQj~§i' . . e.aI;
familyo! 8 Individuals making atotalofl,312.pepl()
30 dunam .' site.: These figures yield a densitycoe:fficiE;
inhabitants per dunarn, Similar calculations are made
el-FarahIIIb (45/dn),Tel el-Farah lIla (40/dn), and I
Il (47/dn), all of which Shiloh labels'!provincialto
similarity of these results" leads Shiloh to .regan
persons perdunam "as an optimal density coeffic
various Israelite provincial towns" (I98Gb: 29)~ He no
these figures are comparable to others deterrni
ancient Mesopotamian cities as well as for many
Eastern towns of the 19th and early 20th centuries (]98
The application of Shiloh's fixed density coefficient;
sites of the early Iron Age settlement expansion is block
several considerations. First, according to Shiloh's r
reasoning this density coefficient applies only to towns
same type as Tell Beit Mirsim St.A. Precisely what is
by type is not sufficiently delineated by Shiloh, thou
must include such factors as the presence or absence
defensive wall, the density of buildings on a site as we
the extent to which a town is integrated· in a broa
economic network. If such are indeed indicators of type, the
it is puzzling that the 12th-eentury site of Tel Masos,'
included with the other three Iron Age II settlements W
were walled (without certainty at Tel el-Farah) and pa
an economic network managed by the monarchy. Tel
does not share these features, though it was involved in
form of trade, and it was also not so densely packed as
other sites. The fact that the data from Tel l\Iiasosyif;
density coefficient in line with those of the others isoot,
to any similarity of type, but to its dispersed comm
layout. Calculating density coefficients from excava
portions of sites assumes proportional representation of.;
whole site. The probable faultiness of this assumption foci
Masos Area A artifically inflates the density coefficient.' .
In addition to measurements of site size, Shil
calculations depend to a large degree upon how one cou
the number of domestic buildings. Confidence in his den
coefficient for Tel Masos is not increased by the disccv
that his house count cannot be made to conform to
published general plan of the site. There are eightbuildi

Chapter Six - Population

·d.Outon>the site ·plan~ but <Shiloh reports nine: eight

Uingooits andapublicstore-house (l980b: 29). Reducing
if;~t<;lby :.a ··single«house wouldvrlower the· density
ffitienttoforty.;.ooe<persaos:>perdunarn. If the area
tuallyrcontains but six;dwellingunit~ which is just as
ely;theothedensitycoefficientdrops to 35/dn. Similar
esrions.rabout house counting can be raised for Tell Beit
Mirsim .where McClellan has found forty domestic buildings
instead of Shiloh's thlrty-slx, a difference that raises the
pensity coefficient to 48.5/dn (1977: 12).
}\ related issue emerges from the different ways in which
the same density coefficient is used to determine absolute
site populations by Shiloh on the one hand and Broshi, whom
Shiloh acknowledges as working along similar lines, on the
other (I 980b: 33, n.2). Shiloh determines site populations by
multiplying the density coefficient by the total settlement
area (l980b: 30), while Broshi first subtracts 25 percent of
the settlement area to take into account public and open
spaces (1980: 5). The conflict here is not just one of
arithmetic, but is theoretical, between the value of total
area versus purely domestic area as a measure of the number
of inhabitants. The balance of evidence falls on the side of
the latter. Cook and Heizer's mathematically refined study of
aboriginal populations of California found strong correlations
between living space and population, but not between total
settlement area and population except within relatively
uniform regions. As the diversity of territory and site
catchments increases, the relationship between site area and
population "may break down and, indeed, disappear, the two
variables tending to become completely independent" (I 968:
115). Broshi's procedure of adjusting site area for public
spaces appears sound on this basis, but how then can the
density coefficient be the same as the one employed by
Finally, Shiloh's density coefficient is based on an average
family size which is drawn not from the excavated remains
themselves, but from "abundant information available in the
historical sources of the period regarding the structure of the
nuclear family as part of the larger patriarchal groups"
(l980b: 29). Shiloh's estimate of eight in the single family
that he believes occupied each of the dwelling units lies at
the- high end of the spectrum of opinion on this question.
Based upon a great variety of data, J. C. Russell offers an
estimate at the opposite end of the scale, counting 3.5 - 3.8
persons in the nuclear family unit in late ancient and

Hopkins -:rhehighlandsof Canaan

medieval,,;times.· Underlying Russell's' estimate

~nWhich ,:'itwou!olrequir':eaboutsixchHdl"en tothe,~
I"eplace>the; d(':agt.mderH·good·.,conditi()ns'11{f95&. 35j
Angel'spaleodemographic?work, ". albeit Hmited, point
sarne,direction: 4.lbirthsQut only J.9.survivors pen!
the Iron Age (I972: 94-95, table 28; belowCh.9.§D).
too, thinks eight is too high an average and notes t
figures aim for the upper limit of population at Iron Ag
(1980b: 29). To be sure,any calculation of absolute pop
made on the basis of a density coefficient of fort)d
persons perdunam of site will overshoot the actual level
wide margin.
This discussion makes clear the dependency of
density coefficient on data and assumptions related
domesticbuiIding:thenumber of such units per sit
composition of the household, and the size of thef
This dependency is masked somewhat by the term
ity coefficient," but it is real nonetheless. A metho
population estimation which is explicitly based upon
domestic dwelling while at the same time reducing
significance of estimates of family size and composition
be found in the formula of Naroll which relates popula
size directly to the dwelling area of a settlement. Nar~
studied eighteen mostly North American and Ocealli¢'
societies and concluded that "the population of a prehistoric
settlement can be very roughly estimated by archaeologis~
as of the order of one-tenth of the floor area in sq
meters occupied by its dwellings" (1962: 588).Na
suggestion has. not been tested widely enough to mal«
anything more than tentative, but such comparisons as
been attempted tend to bear out both the nature 0
relationship between dwelling area, defined as the total
under the roofs of dwellings, and population as we
Narol l's quantification of this relation. Le Blanc pre
four cases in which the average dwelling area per pe
ranges from 7.3 to 11.0 square meters, "reasonably close'
Naroll's prediction (1971:211). Kramer's work on the
Zagros village of Shahiibiid finds a range of between 9 and
square meters of dwelling space per person (1979a: 155).
The application of this formula to early IronA~
settlements is complicated especially by uncertainty a
the extent of the roofed area and the absence or presene
a second story. The amount of available data, howe
places the most serious limitations on computationsba

Chapter Six - Population

pon' NaroIl's formula/21 {~" Among' the excavated early Iron

e;HighlandssiteS;tontyat'Mi and TelMasosdo domestic
tiildlngsexi~t\i~'sUffi<:ient numbersand'\cldequatestate of
reservation and publication" 't(f'make ,'.~ "calculations at all
meanIDgfuI~'UiASsummg >single-storfand'.entirely \ roofed
domestic buildings,'the dwelling area of five 'houses from tAi
ranges from a ,low of 17.8 square meters toa high of 44.0,
making room for an average number of 3 occupants {22{. In
both Stratum III and II Tel Masos' houses possess sufficient
dwelling Space for an average of 6 persons {23{. Though
strikingly divergent,' both of these averages fall within the
range of the nuclear rather than the extended family.
Calculations of the total population of these sites obviously
cannot avoid the problem of proportionality. Recognizing
this, Naroll's formula suggests a population of about 60
persons at' tAi (supposing the existence of 20 houses on the
site),and 118g at Tel Masos(supposing the existence of 198
houses on the site). The Tel Masos figure, while fully half
that arrived at using Shiloh's density coefficient, is certainly
too high given the dispersed site plan. The tAi figure clearly
underestimates the total population of the site, as noted
above, since it does not match the obvious density of the
village. Using new data,' Stager (forthcoming) sets the number
of houses at early Iron Age tAi at 80, yielding a population
figure in the range of 300 persons. The true figure may lie
somewhere between these estimates, but in any case, the
community of tAi is by no means a large one. If 'Ai is typical
of other similarly sized Highland settlements (see above list
of sites), then a picture of inhabitants primarily clustered in
relatively small groupings dominates the population landscape
of the early Iron Age Highlands /24/.

3. Zonal Pattern of Settlement

Despite decades of archaeological excavation and survey,

the total expansion of settlement in the early Iron Age
Highlands has not yet been mapped. This fact limits the
extent to which the zonal pattern of settlement can be
described and the conclusions that can be drawn on its basis.
Even with the presently available evidence, however, the
radical change in the distribution of settlement size and a
number of characteristics of their location can be displayed.

a. Determinants of settlement sites

The settlement pattern of the Bronze Age Highlands has
Hopkins: ,.. J1.eHighlanQ$of Canaan

been studiedanclpresente(t~fl.fuHer~tail t han otherpe~~

The; y.;<.>,~kc<.>,f >ThQrna$o:rl)omPWOi.~rnplja~izes.th~>ecoJ .
p()t~flt~aJqf.x,¥,~us;r~gi()fls;,a.S,tI)~)i~d! explanation\
ol>$er;Ye.d,pa.tt~r;fl§~~se,;:pa.tte,rns;/e,m~rge:inS()far:· as
lai:~~e ;corre,sPQ9del1qe,ca.fJ';be fDoJe,9" ·.I:le,!y.;~e,flfthe:;fre,.q
and size, 0f.$e,ttlemen~~!tpin.the yarioussubregionsQ
one hand and the .<:cologicale,)Cigenciespf.ti)e areas Q
other when theyare,viewedacc0rding JQtI)e needs of a.
agricultural. economy".(1 979:63). Whi1eit is rmpossib
gene,ralizeaboutti)esettlementpf,theliighlands z.one, '..
through the periods<of . th,e. Bronze Age or the indi
regions, very often ilis the Early Bronze period that se
pattern and .also the upper limits of occupational density.
density of Late Bronz.esites lies, in contrast, at .the
end <.>,f the scale. TWo.: subregioils whe,re this :contr
particularly true are the Menashe Plateau and the Sa
High!andsexceptfor.thecore. ()fthe NablusSy
(Thompson 1979: 44, 48; see also Campbell 1968: 19-41,
41-45). The Late Bronze sites tend to conform to the ge
tendency of Bronze Age settlements, naturally
pronounced in some areas than in others, ''to est
themselves in or near well watered valleys and level regi
and to avoid. the marginal agricultural zones" (ThomP$Q,~
19?9:42).Repeatedly, Thompson is able to explaini~
location of settlement sites by pointing to the wealth;.ri.g~
poverty of a subregion in water (precipitation, springs,
wadis), gentle topography, and good soils. The sizeQ,!
settlements also. reflects this complex of determinants,.,¥.iti.
areas of circumscribed agricultural potential hosting .
dispersed patterns of smaller sites and most valleyar;~~!i'
displaying a prominent tendency towards centralizat!9flt
Occasionally Thompson posits the influence of importan.\,.
trade routes, especially in encouraging centralization~<!Q
discussing the settlement pattern of the Jezreel where·~i;~.
passage of trade had an. especially determining influel"l<::~~"
Thompson points also to the needs of military defense a~
political-economic . structures in ceveloping a higNy,
nucleated settlement pattern 0,979: 45, 35). The me;
fortified cities of the Highland regions in the Late
period do appear to concentrate at intersections of
routes or along established lines of communication. The
of settlements along .the main north-south highway
Judean-Samarian mountain range is a case in point:
Rabud (Debir), Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethel, Shechem, .and
el-farah (Tirzah) sit astride this route at the top of

Chapter Six - Population

watershed. In the east-west running basins of northern Upper

\1Ga1llee Maroni surveyed a chain of Canaanite (through Late
!rBronz~)cities including <feL Qedesh, Telel...Khirbeh, Gush
d Halav, Tel Rosh, and TelNograt (Maroni 1957:146).
. This brief review of Late Bronze Age Highlands' settlement
pattern brings to the fore several- of the more crucial
•. determinants to which appeal is often made in discussions of
the locations and size of settlements, viz. availability of
natural resources, the existence of economic networks (trade
routes and lines of communication), political organization,
and security conditions. Another frequently significant factor
is the religio-cultic (Trigger 1968: 66-70). Whereas the Late
Bronze settlement pattern is primarily explicable in terms of
the .first of these determinants, favorable environmental
circumstances have not played the major role in determining
the locations of the newly founded sites of the early Iron
Age. In fact, most of these sites appear to be located in just
those "marginal agricultural zones" which Bronze Age
settlements tended to avoid. Among the excavated sites,
Giloh is perhaps the best example of this: there is no good
fertile land in the vicinity of the settlement situated atop a
ridge of Cenomanian limestone, neither are springs to be
found nearby (A. Mazar 1981: 2-4). Equally small Tel Esdar,
while located at the rim of the Arad Basin with its level land
and offering of underground water supplies, occupies a
marginal zone agriculturally because of the limitations of
precipitation in its environs. 'Izbet Sartah is located "in the
midst of nothing" according to its excavators, resting on the
westernmost outcrops of the Cenomanian and Turonian rocks
on the seaside of the central core of the Nablus Syncline
(Kochavi and Demsky 1978: 21). The location of the small
early Iron Age site in Upper Galilee excavated by Aharoni
raises a caution against generalizing in this respect, however.
Tel Harashim sits at the southern end of the Emeq Peqi'in
whose Senonian rocks and water supplies render this area
much more favorable for agricultural settlement. The sharp
rise of the Meron mountains does, however, block movement
from this valley to the west. Similarly, the location of Tel
Masos is not considered marginal by its excavators who point
to the fertile soil as well as the abundant water offerings of
the Wadi Beersheba even if the rainfall zone is not as
advantageous for agriculture as more northern locations
(Fritz 1981: 61).
Evidence regarding unexcavated newly founded settlements
of the early Iron Age also does not sustain generalizations

HOpkins -Th~:Highlands of Canaan

~ui.·.·• •the;;'S:rt5~IX;;Ylttrll~~ • • ri!1~fleul~utaJ:.~~efltial.· • ·• f
sne ~e.·~it~~su~~re(jifii A~~~~ii~.'·~~Ga~lee
•.•. !111~;~···... .n•• \1~I~)';'.~n<:I.t~~~~':;~()JJle • a~~nestle
more ru~g~\'m ..... .. . a!noils,porti()~sia'n~·r·W~lnterflu*~
th~ 0CiSin,'their .sitll~ti<ms·are ,·betterdesc.:ribed•• a~ loae
thanagricld~uraI1yrrifrginal0976a).Agood •number
where occupation was initiated irl'theearly Iron Age
Samarian .Highlands, someln the core region of the: N
Syncline- situatedatthe~dgeof"basins like Marj Sanur (
Hajj H79Z.:xJ 9734]) and.theBeit Dagan valley (Kh.lbn
[1792 x 178.3] and Kh, Tanafl861 x 1759]), another loea
the tail of the •Wadi Far'ia in the .• East Samarian Hill
Bur] [1820 x18&.});belong tQ this same category.
candidates5an be drawn from the ranks of newly estab
settlements in the Ju<:iean Highlands as' would be ex
from the . regionalptecipitation patterns. The tel 0
Zakandah(1641 x I193),'situated on a protected hill
area of gentle topography surrounding a spring, is except
in this respect. Its position close to the north
watershed highway also merits notice.
By far the majority of the newly founded early Iron
sites,' however,. do not overlook optimal. agricu]
conditions. The contrast with sites where earlier inhabit
found reason to settle is great in this respect. Based on 1'0
judgments about agricultural feasabiIity(soil type, arnoun
level land, water availability) and recognizing the limitations
of such rough judgments <Compare the exacting methode>!
of Jarman and Webley 1975: 177-1&6,201-221), half (26
the 53 sites on which occupation was renewed in the e
Iron Age offer conditions advantageous to agriculture,
only about one-sixth of the newly founded sites
such a boast. In this respect, the early Iron Age exoansio
settlement'~Ft~e •Hlghlandsintbareas never prev!,
occupied occurred as a kind of pushing back of the bord,
the habitable zone~. At the same time, however, it is esseI'll:
to •• recognize . that settlement of the great majority);~f
previously occupied sites • with favorable .agricult~"
clrcurnstancesoccurred after these sites had lain vacan
the entire· Late Bronze Age (21 of 26). Their ren
settlement constitutes a kind of recovery of the habi
zone. If these sites with broken occupational histories oe(Oi'e
their early Iron Age settlement are added to the sites wit
pr~--early Iro~ Age settlement. histories, then the. by"
pkt~re.of the environmental conditions of the expansio~,;gr'
the settlement brightens considerably. Many of the sites 01

Chapter Six - Population

surge of occupation do inhabit marginal

limited,access<to' . fresh" water anderugged
offering relatively little bottom land. The sites
crowns of isolated hills or at the end of low ridges
and overlook more or less narrow shelves or level land hosting
a forest of evergreen maquis and whose terra rossa soil is
thrust through at intervals by outcroppings of hard limestone.
But a large percentage of sites offered much better
agricultural circumstances: proximity to springs, situations on
slopes at the edge of basins of Colluvial soils or nestled on
hills astride fairly level small plateaus. Four sites on the
Nablus Syncline and Bethel Hills at which surveyors found
pottery of the earliest phase of the Iron Age constitute good
examples: Kh, Ibn Nasir (1792:x 1783) sitting above the
valleys east of Shechem, Tel Abu Zarad (l719 x 1679) a
well-watered tel on the rounded crest of a ridge, Kh,
er-Rafid (1767 x 1618) at the edge of Emeq Shillo, and Ras
et-Tahunen (1702 x 1462) on the north-south highway that
runs across one of the least dissected portions of the Bethel
Hills. Of the three other sites singled out by the surveyors in
this respect, one with Late Bronze II occupation overlooks
better agricultural circumstances, while the other two newly
founded sites are not so favorably situated (Kochavi 1972:
154). Renewed settlement at stratified sites that have been
excavated found good environmental conditions at Hazor,
Shiloh, and Tel en-Nasbeh. 'Ai offered less favorable
conditions. Given the nature of surveys and ceramic evidence
in general, it is hardly possible to sift these sites
diachronically, ascribing settlements at more or less marginal
locations to an earlier or later phase. They must be taken
together and only that way do they render an accurate
likeness of the expansion of settlement in the Highlands.
Among the characteristics of early Iron Age settlement
sites noted by A. Mazar is a location in "remote places which
have natural defensive characteristics and extensive views."
He mentions, Giloh, Tel el-Ful, Kh, Raddana, and Kh, Umm
et-Talla (1631 x 1161) as representative of this quality (1981:
4). While there are notable exceptions to this
characterization, for example, sites astride the north-south
mountain highway (Kh. Kan'an [l022 x 1572] in the Judean
Highlands, Kh, Qubur [1670 x 1900] and Kh, el-Babariyye
[1664 x 1863] in the Samarian Highlands are newly founded
sites, and Tel en-Nasbeh is a conveniently located renewed
settlement), the great majority of the early Iron Age
settlements are situated at some remove from the prominent

hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

lines of communication•.The p~s~ti9n;J)f.most 00. hill~J'''

tops may join this relative ,.Lnaccessability.in sugge~
priority. of,security ;c:.oocerns•. A\.JXli~i'ln,fW;·f9ne1.Wp.
this factor be the. one ~tofo'lerridjngsignitlc:.ance·in·
of settlements. in. ~rael·';Jl\tlas.p.f.Jsra~l:}~.v•. !'Cartpgr:9-
But •these . locations ;c:.i'lnalso -: beinterPf~ted.Jroll}
perspective. Ron has empl'lasized ;the,tenclencyof.settl
never to besituated.onareas suitable for.cultivati
views .the preservation-of cultivable land as the
determinant. Settlement buildings are located on rocky
ridge tops, thus leaving ..free .: the adjacent. arable
Similarly, the propensity to locate at the margin
watershed rather than on the backbone upon which the ;mCl:!.~t
road runs is explained, at least in the Judean Highland .
the importance of being close to the most extensive are
cultivable land (Ron 1966: 120-121). Obviously
assessments of the importance of the security factor ang
"arable-land" factor are not mutuaHyexclusive. The loc~ ' .
of early Iron Age settlements on defensible sites that dOi~
remove agricultural land from cultivation represents
welcome satisfaction of different interests.
The absence of near-by sources of fresh water repres
another characteristic of the early Iron Age settlementsjt~;
often emphasized as particularly disadvantageous. Reco,-!r~i
to rock-eut cisterns is envisioned as a kind of speci#z
treatment demanded by the environment as a conditionQ~.{
permanent settlement. While it is true that very few of the.
sites of the early Iron Age expansion of settlementarft;
blessed with proximate springs or perennial rive~~~'
(exceptions come to mind such as Kh, Raddana and Bet,,~~;
where fairly voluminous springs are located at the bas~)\e&
both sites), this fact has. been too greatly emphasizedli.n9;
does not deserve to be singled out as especially indicative.. 9~f,
the harsh conditions which early Iron Age settlers ha4~t~.l·;
overcome (Albright [1960] 1971: 113; Borowski 1979:\,,~~~
Gottwald 1979b: 656). Propinquity of perennial water sourc~~
does not appear to be a top priority in the location of ancient
villages, the lack of which creates terrible hardship~
Numerous successful occupations of all periods of this regi~~
thrive no closer than 2km from the nearest water sourc~~;
One may note Kh, Rabud where two wells are located about~;
km north of the site and Hesban (in the Transjordan) wher:7
the nearest springs are 1.7 and 2.0km distant (La Bia!1$~.
1979a: 2). Of course, the indispensability of water and}~;
patterns of its use lend it a relatively greater weight in, .•~t;

Chapter Six - Popula tlon

community's balancing of factors in site selection, but it is

still one among a set cof factors which must be weighed
(Chisholn;t 1962:114..120). Miller's study of .water use in Syria
and Palestine from very early times through the Bronze Age
shows thatn.earby .• water sources have not been the prime
determinants in site selection. "The immediate availability of
surface water," Miller writes, "may not be the chief variable
influencing settlement location," observing that "with modern
rural settlements in semi-arid areas ••• distances of between
5-10km to the nearest perennial water source are common"
(I 980: 332). The fact that so many sites are situated well
above their water supplies presents an additional indication
of the relative diminution of the ease of access to water as a
determinant of site location in the early Iron Age highlands.

b. Dispersed settlement and pressure on resources

However one assesses the balance between defensive and
agricultural needs and need for water in shaping the choice of
sites in the early Iron Age expansion of settlement in the
Highlands, the transformation of the zonal set tlerr.ent
pattern remains conspicuous. If the Late Bronze Age
settlement pattern is marked by tendencies toward
centralization, then the early Iron Age settlement pattern
displays a dispersed map: many more sites of smaller size at
less distance from one another. T..../ 0 methodological problems
erect a slight hedge around this statement. The broad dating
range of most ceramic finds does not permit the precise
determination of what percentage of the sites was in fact
occupied contemporaneously. The number of sites occupied at
any given time was certainly not as great as the number of
sites ceramic evidence places wi thin a given period.
Oftentimes the proximity of similarly sized sites offers a
clue about non-contemporaneity under the assumption that
two separate populations could not subsist on the same
resource base. This is an agrument often heard with respect
to the Late Bronze sites of 'Ai and Bethel and Taanach and
Megiddo. Examples among the unexcavated sites of the
highlands are easy to spot (compare the locations of Kh,
Kussein [165& x 1&67] and Kh, el-Babariyye [1664 x 1&63J).
Second, the possibility that some percentage of these sites
represents seasonal occupation is high. Certain sites do not
represent independent settlement, but are the secondary
settlements of people who also 'occupy another site. The
phenomenon of temporary settlements is, of course, not
confined to the pastoral component of the population. The
Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

seasonal rl1tgratioo "oragric~ItUransts ,~~ dlstarit ,Ii~

{Amiran1953: 68-73)~:':: : , ' < , . .,., :;".
Thoughsome:of thedramatkally increasednurnb~r
Iron Age settlements ., maybe "accolmted.foras seas
or their number may be decreased by subtracting
age that were' not contemporaneous, these quallfica
not obscure the expansion of occupation and its disp,
settlement. pattern. ,What. is vitally important f~8rn
standpoint of the agricultural systems of. this period
assessment of the impact on the achievement of subsis
of this increase in the number of settlements and their
in the expansion of the habitable zone.' It is espeditIf
increase in the density of settlement that draws'
attention with respect to this question of the condu
agricultural operations. Though the detailed calculatf
based on the model of population estimation discussed' a
- necessary to demonstrate it cannot be made with p
data, there is little doubt that the early Iron Age settle
expansion translates into a great increase In the populatig
the Highlands' region over Bronze Age levels. But does:
increase in population amount to the kind of popular
pressure which would force great changes in the conduct,;
agriculture? Does the density of population achieved in " h.

early Iron Age Highlands suggest a certain of.

agricultural production? The only way to answer
questions is to examine each settlement site with
toward determining how its population matched its
resources. Were its resources confined by competition
neighboring settlements? How many hectares of land
cultivated .without intensifying Investments of
labor (e.g., irrigation: or drainage systems or
systems)? The use of site-catchment analysis to rf""t",r,minPi',,'
the extent of resources has been mentioned DrE~Vi'DW;lY.
such a thorough examination of early Iron
would be immeasurably h e l p f u l . ,
One of the essential attributes of Highlands settlement
it related to this question of the determination of avail
resources is the fact of its nearly universal nuclea
community layouts. Except under the most unusual eire
stances, historically speaking (for example, royal investm
and direction coupled with internal security), isolated far
that is, farmsteads attached directly to the cultivated Ian
are not possible in this region. As a consequence, the amo

Chapter Six - Population

f land available to the individoal cultivating family is

nnally dictated by the constraints of the nucleated village,
ially by" the time' it takes to travel·to'andfrom .rts
Ids. Inthisrespeet, there is an inhetentHthitationon the
tent of land resources, one that is Independent of com-
petition from neighboring settlements. The limiting radius
under conditions of primitive transportation technology is
usually considered to be an hour's walk or about 5km
depending upon topography (McDonald and Simpson 1972:
127). It is hardly conceivable that the predominantly small
clusters of inhabitants, like tAi,that compose the population
landscape of the early Iron Age would have experienced
pressure on their resources within the circle of land use
imposed by,thedailycommute.It must be quickly added,
howeverv cthatvmost settlements of the early Iron Age
"Highlands did not enjoy anything close to a 5km radius of
•exclusive territoriaL use. Even a superficial look at the
settlement landscape shows this plainly. North of Shechem,
for example, the early Iron Age sites of the Nablus Syncline
are rarely more distant than 5km from one another. The
effective radii of these sites is probably something in the
neighborhood of 2km or less /25/. The occupational density of
this region is probably the greatest of the Highlands south of
the Jezreel Valley, but the effective distance between
settlements of the other regions of the Samarian and Judean
Highlands comes closer to that of its sites than to the 5km
ideal figure. in the Judean Highlands south of Jerusalem,
average radii are approximately one and one-half times those
of the central Samarian region, still well below the
limitations imposed by pedestrian travel to the fields. The
surveyors of the Bethel Hills observe that early Iron Age sites
were occasionally at distances of 1-2km and sometimes at
distances of up to 5km one from the other (Kochavi 1972;
154,). The settlements surveyed by Aharoni in southern Upper
Galilee are sometimes only 1 or 2km apart (1957: 147).
From this picture of a fairly dense distribution of
nucleated settlements throughout the Highlands' region (data
on Lower Galilee and the Negev Highlands are lacking), it is
evident that the actual radius of agricultural operations was
significantly smaller than the technically potential radius.
But the question about the existence of pressure on resources
is not answered by this conclusion, however suggestive it may
be. In order to determine whether the restricted, radii
of cultivation apparent from the density of settlement
translated into pressure on resources, a judgment about the

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

~bilitY2t the territorypf particularsi~esJo supp

popy1CitiPQsrnust. be. made. As hasalready,been nOte
iU<:igme,Qt . ,demandS a . . . detailed • . . analysis. of, '. the
agricultl.!raL prpduC"tion.of a site's territory •. as . w
accurate. estimate its >population.,l?resent
insufficient on both counts,but if a general appeciat
have any. validity, then the tiny populations of most
early Iron Age sites suggest that even •territoriesre
to radii of 2km, that is, encompassing about l256ha,
have provided ample agricultural bases to sustain sit
ulationsv-Sires the size of lAi would need to place
fraction of this available land into production in orderto.:f
their .Inhabitantsand store for an emergency/26/. In.ot
words, from . what the zonal pattern of settlement a
nature of the community layout suggest about
availability and from what the domestic architecture an
building densities suggest about population size, noob
discrepancy between land needs and resources exists f
agricultural communities of the early Iron Age.
expansion of settlement and the staggering increa
population density in the Highlands over the levels 0
Late Bronze Age, the population density had not builttd;(
point of creating a crisis of pressure on resources conside
from the standpoint of an agriculture-dominated mix~
economy. This does not mean, of course, that pressure··OJ:l.
resources never existed for any single community or in any
given region during this period or that such pressure mayn?t
have played an important role in producing the pattern'jiQ~
dispersed settlement that characterizes the populati~
landscape. If one were able to discriminate diachronicall~
among the various settlements, their types, sizes,.~
locations, a hypothesis Involving the expansion of settlemeQt
under the influence of pressure on resources frommQt,~
optimal to more marginal settlement locations or, indeed':'i~
the reverse direction, could be formulated. As it standSi
however, the population landscape reveals a pattern.<>;f
settlement in which growth in numbers of people and growth
in numbers of settlements runparallel in such a way as.~
regional crises of pressure on resources are visib1e.·~'t'f!#
Support would be won for this conclusion by a comparisq\1
with the next peak of settlement and population in the
Highlands, Iron Age U. Again the number of sites dimhS'
(from twenty-four to forty-nine in the Judean Highlands, t~:
example). This increase is accompanied by an expansion . Of'.
the boundaries of previously occupied sites. At the sametirnct

Chapter Six - Population

e total needs of villages grow especially as the monarchical

§titutionimposes .e'l(ergreater~emandson the produce of
e fi~lds.l}superfj.ciallookreYeals a .crtsis of resources of
eat proportions, one that: makes the growth witnessed by
eearly Iron Age appear placid. : Deep and thorough-going
st have been the changes of agricultural system entailed in
his later period.

C. Population Landscape and Agriculture

What is known of the population landscape of the early Iron

Age Highlands produces several important indicators of the
conduct of agriculture in these regions. The dominant feature
of this landscape is the dispersed pattern of small
settlements variously situated in environments that span the
scale of agricultural feasibility. The diversity of their
locations with respect not only to agricultural conditions but
also defensive possibilities and communications routes
compels the conclusion that no set of equally weighted
agricultural challenges and possibilities characterized the life
of these villages. In this respect the closer inspection of
settlement sites does not produce results that deviate from
those expected on the basis of the gross cataloging of the
geomorphological features and soil distribution in the
Highlands presented above.
The review of the zonal pattern of settlement does suggest
that one challenge which the settlers of the Highlands did not
have to face especially was competition among villages for
land. For agricultural subsistence there does not appear in
general any significant discrepancy between land needs and
land resources. It is necessary to emphasize that the
investigation of the relation between settlement sites and
their productive bases has not been discriminating enough to
make this statement definitive. Similarly, no answer to the
question of whether the expansion of settlement in the
Highland regions brought about the occupation of
characteristic geomorphological and soil contexts has been
achieved. However, the tentative conclusion about the
absence of pressures on land resources stemming from
competition for land suggests that no objective focusing on
increasing the productivity of limited land resources
demanded high priority in the conduct of agriculture in the
early Iron Age Highlands. Most villages of the region were
not in the position of needing to make great, intensifying
investments in their lands in order to maintain themselves

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

~griculturaHy.~his,of.".•~ourse, ..·is~?t,t~esaJ'n~~ssa it
arableSland was •. ufree·';wnhin;t~e~gr+cuI~uraJ-sysIe .
there were . 'no~tremend()us'co~ts·invoJv~d 'in 'i>rIng
into production and ···rnaintaining'it.lt does remain
to speak about agricultural objectives telatingto the
and maintenance of : productive farming land and th
strategies adopted to achieve these objectives unci
specific environmental and demographic constraints 0
early IronAgeHightands.(Seebelow.~h.&).Howev
light of the zonal pattern of settlement it appears that
may have been rnorexvital objectives and strategies a
which the primary structure of agriculture in this tim
place took shape.
It is more likely that a-challenge of great weight on·
diverse agricultural agendas of Highlands communitie
imposed by the small size and no doubt fragile nature
communities themselves. The ability of these communit
maintain an adequate supply of labor with which to carr
agricultural operations must have been a constant con
This perceptiori creates an interesting paradox: the'
villages which were collectively part of a large
population growth in the Highlands, were
by population instability and inadequacy. Carol
made much of the early Israelite concern with
tion, arguing that "Israelite society urgently required
plenishment and even a surge in population to combat
effect of the famine, war, and disease at the end of
Bronze Age and to provide the human factor ne,ce~;satY'forF
normal agricultural efforts" 0978: 98). Such a need ooiint5··;t6-
the possible presence of : means to enlarge the
population size, that is, social mechanisms that
production. Notions of solidarity beyond the im!medialt~
family can function in this way, as can
contributions to ceremonial occasions and a host of
social forces. Gottwald has caught a glimpse
importance in the formation of early Israel of motivations
enlarge the effective size of the population and thus Increase'
production. A vital role was played by
the reality that these small-scale intensive
turalists were not producing the greater part of
surpluses to support a voracious leisured class. What
produced they consumed or bartered,., and thus
critical question for. them ••• was to organize forces
.relations, or production that could secure them a
and advancing subsistence level (I979b: 662).
Chapter Six - Population

attention needs to be paid to means of increasing the

li,jat>Of'.StJp{)ly other than through natural increase or absorption
remain essential. Meyers has pointed to the
1).•e xistence of sanctions against sexual misconduct that wasted
reproouctive energy and threatened the nuclear family as
supportive of the priority of population increase (1978: 99).
The success of efforts at population building is surely
responsible for a share of the increase in numbers. On the
other hand, natural increase in population cannot explain the
slope of the growth curve, and much of the expansion of
settlement must be accounted for by the influx of groups
from outside the Highlands (Stager forthcoming). Joining the
social concern to increase the numbers of people or the
effective size of the population stands the straightforward
agricultural concern to make the most of the limited amount
of labor available. The seasonal climate, enforcing a period
of agricultural rest, makes such a concern for the
optimization of labor all the more urgent.
Several features of the domestic dwelling and its
associated installations and furnishings shed light on what
must have been another weighty challenge in the Highlands'
agricultural villages. The possibility that a stable was a
regular feature of the domestic dwelling indicates the
importance of the pastoral component of agricultural life
and, furthermore, locates at least some share of this
component among the permanent inhabitants of a site who
devoted a major portion of their energies to strictly
agricultural pursuits. The importance of the coupling of
different strategies of exploiting the environment that
constitutes mixed farming cannot be underestimated in the
early Iron Age. Of equal importance was the ability,
technically and socially, to store foodstuffs as a buffer
against the greatly variable yields of Highland agriculture.
The large collared-rim pithoi and grain-pits so common on
the sites of the early Iron Age Highlands are concrete
attestations of this high priority objective. The fact that
storage jars and installations belong primarily to domestic
loci is instructive of the fundamental level of economic
activity and decision making, namely, the household.
Nevertheless, the existence of "storage buildings" at various
sites (Kh. Raddana, Shiloh, Tel Masos, and possibly 'Izbet
Sartah to judge by the size and configuration of house no.
I12) hints at broader institutions of social responsibility.
If storage was as important as the existence of these facili-
ties, installations, and pithoi appears to indicate, then

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

extra-village networks of reciprocity would not .~.

pected features of the .population landscape. Attep
wa ysof<storinK ," foodstuffs from . one 'yeanto the",
function ;tospread' '.the.risksinherent '" in:thestr
subsistence in "this variableregion~Sincetheabili
community to spread risk is dependent largely on the
of energy it can marshal, risk spreading is pair
optimizing the supply ,of labor in the conduct of agricul
Together, these two constitute what was probably the
decisive objective in the structuring of agriculturei
Highlands. (See below, Ch, 9).
Following upon the examination of the HighlatJ(1
environment, this description and analysis of the popula
landscape of the early Iron Age completes the settingof,:
stage, as it were, for the presentation of a pictureofl~~'
actual operation of its agricultural systems. We turn, the~j~~
an examination of agricultural technology in the earlY'I~~'
Age, the crop producing, processing, storing activities i\n~
other elements of agricultural practice by which a partisul~r
population sustained itself in this particular region.:.'Th'e
review of the environmental and demographic factors:tfas
converged upon three objectives by which the agricUltural
systems may be characterized. The intense and highly
variable rainfall of the region can be seen as the primary
subsistence challenge, and so the objective of water
conservation and control provides the first focus of the
examination of agricultural technology. While not as urgent
in the short-term, the maintenance of agricultural lands is'a
vital necessity, especially in the hilly terrain of . the
Highlands. Thus the objective of soil conservation and
fertility maintenance supplies the second focus. The
objective of risk spreading and the optimization oflabO!
receives the greatest portion of treatment below and the
ultimate position. There is a clear limit beyond which
variability of the Highlands climate cannot be
labor-intensive Iron Age technology. Consequently,
spreading of risk and the mobilization of hands to
this effort becomes the decisive objective for
achievement of subsistence security.




Pools of Solomon.

Chapter Seven



A. Introduction

ATER availability is the critical environmental

constraint under which agricultural systems must
function in Highland Canaan. The patterns and
forms which available water takes in the High-
lands present the most significant challenges
to any agricultural community. First and foremost among
these challenges is that posed by the high rates of runoff
which steal mass quantities of this valuable commodity from
agriculture. The seasonal climate with its high intensity
rains, the hilly terrain, and the characteristics of the soils
combine, almost willfully, to make water conservation a high
priority task. Extremely high rates of evapotranspiration and
the limited accessibility of springs and other sources of
irrigation water raise the stakes involved in water con-
servation and control still further. It is no wonder that
archaeologists and historians of the period of the emergence
of Israel have often turned to water control and conservation
devices in order to explain the expansion of settlement in the
Highlands. (See above, Ch, 6 §B.3.a.) Securing and conserving
water constitute the number one challenge which Highland
settlers had to face.

B. Terrace Systems

Among the strategies for water conservation and control to

which hill-slope cultivators the world over have often turned
is terracing (Spencer and Hale 1961; Donkin 1979). While it is
true that terracing is commonly viewed primarily as a soil
conservation measure, its potential role in the water balance
of an agricultural environment makes it also a leading
strategy for water management. This is especially true of
hilly regions in arid or semi-arid zones or in climates with

hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

an uneven distribution of rainfall (Mayerson 1960: 2).

discussion of the contribution of terracing to water
servation and control will include a description of the
ture of terraces and terrace types, a picture of the aims
functions of terraces and the requirements of the'
construction and maintenance, and.. a consideration of th
date for the appearance of terraces in the Highlands.
Agricultural terracing has transformed, through centuri
of its practice, the natural landscape of Highland Canaan.
represents a dear example of a special treatment by
human agents have shaped the environment from which
derive their sustenance. In simplest terms, agriculturalz
terracing is the technique of the creation leve"
agricultural surfaces on hillsides, in valley bottoms,a.
elsewhere. Quite a number of different types of agrkultur
terraces. play important roles in the farming econorni
around the world. A preliminary classification by Spencer
Hale lists ten distinct types which range from channel bot
weir terraces found in arid areas to wet field terraces of
rice-growing communities of southeast Asia. The
prevalent terrace type of the Highlands is termed by Spencer
and Hale the "linear sloping, dry field terrace," and
the creation of arable land behind a stone wall built
across a hillside (1961: 4-15). The Hebrew Bible
limited occurrences of two terms which may refer to this
kind of agricultural terrace: "madrega" (pl. madregot) and
"sedemot". The term "madrega" is found in Cant 2.14 and
Ezek 38.20 where the contexts appear to have the terrace
wall more narrowly in view. Borowski lists this as one of the
two terms which may be interpreted as denoting "terrace"
(1979: 31). The term "sedemot" is found in Deut 32.32, tsa
l6.8, 2 Kgs 23.4, Jer 31.40 (Qere), and Hab 3.17. Borowski
concludes that this term "seems to signify a special type of
field or place of cultivation, the most likely interpretation of
which is 'terrace'" (1979: 31). In a fuller discussion Stager
expands the corpus of this term to include two Ugaritic
citations (CTA 23:8-11 and CTA 2.1.43 [reconsrructedl) and
concludes that "in Ugaritic and Hebrew poetry the term is
used to denote 'agricultural terraces,' especially those on
which vineyards were planted (CTA 23.8-11; Deut 32.32; and
Isa 16.8), but fig and olive orchards were grown on 'sdrnt' as
well (Hab 3.17)" (I982: 113-118). Other terrace types also
occur, e.g., the terrace types of the Negev (Evenari, Shanan,
and Tadmor 1971: 97-118). No comprehensive classification
of the terrace types of Highland Canaan has been carried out.

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation &: Control

Though the study of .even the most common .of the

Highlands'terraces is still in -rts infancy, the basic aims and
fuoctions';of'agricultural"terra<:ing· hlive beenelucidated by
field observation, common sense, and ethnographic analogy
(Edelstein and Gat 1980: n-7&; Edelstein and Gibson 19&2: 52;
de Geus 1975: 67; Ron 1966: 34, 122; Spencer and Hale 1961:
5-f». The primary aim of terrace building is to create leveled
surfaces•.These leveled surfaces are more accommodating to
the operation of the animal traction plow, and in some
locations they may serve to expand the arable area accessible
to irrigation water (Semple 1931: 440). The creation of
leveled surfaces permits the achievement of another of the
basic aims of terrace building: to control runoff. The control
of runoff both reduces soil erosion from the hillside and
enhances the accumulation of nutrient rich soil on the
terrace surface by capturing soil particles washed down from
upslope and retaining decaying organic matter and debris.
The end result may be the securing of a greater depth of soil
behind the terrace wall. The control of runoff also protects
crops from the potential hazards of fast-moving sheetwash
(Brush 1977: 98)•• Above all, by decreasing the amount of
runoff through the increase of depression storage, terraces
facilitate the penetration of water (either rainwater or
irrigation water) into the soil. The construction of terraces
also provides a resting spot for stones cleared from the
surrounding fields which are used for the revetments or in fill
at the base of the walls.
"The creation of a terrace was not a simple task"
(Edelstein and Gibson 19&2: 52). Terrace construction was
both a tune-consuming and complex task which demanded no
small .amountof engineering, geological, and hydrological
knowledge. Even the first simple efforts at terracing of
primitive' agricultural communities would involve "recog-
nitioncof.vlandforrns, the nature of the regolith [layer of
rock material that underlies the soil], the character of the
soils, precipitation regimes, and the nature of surface water"
(Spencer and Hale 1961: 4; see also Ron 1966: 121). The first
step in the construction of a linear sloping, dry field terrace
on a hillside already cleared of vegetation was the building of
the terrace wall laterally across the hillside. Edelstein and
Gibson have been able to distinguish five different types of
walls in their field examination of terraces in the Highlands.
The earliest dated wall, and one which is typical of the Iron
Age, was ''built of large triangular stones to form a series of
pillars. Smaller stones were used to fill in the areas between

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

the larger .stones" (Edelstein andGibson1982:52)~The.d

ofpecliyitypftl1eslope;determines . the ., necessary· h .
the4e!:'rage; .wallxp-nd.• 1;hus'.' ;the iamounl,of .Iabor••·.·requi
cOrQpletehi(Edelsteinand,Cat.l9&0: Z&;Lewis1953:2}
placement;,;.of . walls«..a nd.,the •. buHding'ofterraces
facilitated on -the Cenomanian and Turonian
dolomites of the Highlands which often' contain bands (H'IP"'"
readily dissolved chalk or marl and have assumed a stE~p~ilk·e
morphology (Karmon 1971: 329; Orni and Efrat 1
These natural step formations form the foundation of terr.lcEl).:'
waHswhich are placed on the front edge .of the hortzontat
steps (Edelstein and Gat 1980: 77; Arniran 1962: 102).
recognition of the existence of these step formations
good example of the kind of geological knowledge of wIllIe"}.··.
the ancient terrace-building community made use.
Upslope, behind the walls, the terrace beds which Edelstein;.c.
and Gibson) have investigatedhavesuggested caref\.llf'
attention to the layering of the fill: "first a layer of gravel,
then a layer of soil, then a layer of stones or anothersof
gravel, and finally a layer of organic soil." The gravel base
immediately behind the wall was provided to permit .tf:l~
percolation of water from one terrace to the next (Edelstein
and.Gibson 1982: 53). The amount of labor necessary 'to
complete the terrace bed was dependent upon the availabilitY
of fill, that is, primarily upon the depth of the soil and
unconsolidated regolith in the terraced area. On hillsides with
sufficient soil and regolith, back-slope digging and fore-slope
filling up to the terrace wall would accomplish the task.' On
slopes with only a thin covering of soil and regolith, however]
the necessary fill would have to be transported to the terrace
from surrounding slopes or, more commonly it appears, from
the valley bottoms below (Spencer and Hale 1961:20;
Edelstein and Gat 1980: 73). Soil also accumulates behind the
terrace walls from natural processes of soil genesis and
erosion from upper slopes.
In order to secure an accurate assessment of the level of
labor required by the terracing of the Highlands' hillsides, it
would be important to know if terracing of these slopes were
possible in the early Iron Age without the time-consuming
transport of soil from the valley bottoms. Edelstein and
Kislev's study of the agricultural terraces of Mevasseret
Yerushalayim did find that soil behind the 8th century
terraces had been transported to the terraces from another
site, the location of which they did not determine (Edelstein
and Kislev 1981: 54-56). This could be interpreted as evidence

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation & Control

of . the extent to which soil erosion in the Highlands had

progressed by; the8thcentury;J§ho~ver,and·not-be a
reflection of 'the dictates of the natural extent of thesoi!
cover. Under the maquis vegetation 'which presumably
covered the early Iron Age Highlands.vterra rossa sells-may
well have been as deep as a meter or more on the slopes.
(See above, Ch, 5 §D, §F.a.) The kind of slope would also have
been a factor in determining the ready availability of soll for
terrace beds, however, and areas with a step-like morphology
would have offered but little back-slope area from which
terrace fill might have been secured. Other kinds of slopes
would likely have allowed the creation of terrace beds
without the need to import vast quantities of soil,
The still-functional terraces of the Highlands today and all
the cross-sectional diagrams which one finds in literature
show the area behind the terrace wall to be a brim-full,
more-or-less level, horizontal bed (e.g., Lewis 1953: 3).
Agricultural terraces are thus conceived to contain "deep
profiles of imported soil," "leveled up to the top of the
revetment" (Stager 1982: 112). The existence today of many
age-old terraces which are fairly full of soil that forms a
level surface may be explained by some set of principles of
proper terrace construction, but other factors, notably the
long-standing accumulation of sheetwash and other debris,
have played a part. One ought to exercise caution, in any
case, in supposing that the terraces which may have been
built by Highland communities in the early Iron Age must
have conformed to ideal specifications about fullness and
levelness. In fact, the creation of a level terrace bed "is not a
prerequisite for a successful terrace" of the linear sloping,
dry field type (Spencer and Hale 1961: 9). Levelness is vital
when terraces serve to create artificially irrigated fields
where the even spread of water is a priority. Otherwise
absolute levelness (for the sake of ease of plowing, for
example) occupies a low position on the list of terrace aims.
The other more important functions of soil and water
conservation are accomplished by the creation of a leveled
(relative to the hillside) terrace bed whose soil need not rise
to the very brim of the terrace wall. Fill for such terraces is
more likely to have been available on newly cleared Highland
hillsides of all types in the early Iron Age.
The foregoing description of the construction of terraces
presents a picture of an involved and labor-intensive set of
tasks. Edelstein and Gat concluded that the construction of
the terraces of the Highlands "was a complex operation

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

nT, T,rnA,:;>n,... I""h",r";fl,,g
Z3)., Needless t~ sa)l,;;th~dabordemandsofterracesyste
mt faU silent withtb~:t9;mpletion oftheinitialconstru
Maintenanceals<> ';"eqt1.il'~ahighjnput"of daborthe
the insp~ction,: t~pair,' ;andreinforcementof"terrace
(Turkowski 1969~,24k;The;high,.,labor.,.,requirement;oh
ace ' systems 'has ;;n~t,gone '," unnoticed 'in .Iiterature
terrace-farming' communities. Authorities on develop
agricultural communities frequently name the high costs'
terracing -as 'chief among factors militating against ;th
introduction in fragile ,environments (Pelzer
Anthony et al, 1979: 120).
Because of their ,high labor. costs, terrace
usually found in cultivating communitiescharacterizedb
set of correlatedcondrttonss-Nettrng, for example, notes tha
among ,the hHlfarmers of Nigeria factors of econorr(
feasibility limit terrace systems to land which could "prod
heavily and on a sustained basis" (Netting 1968: 61). Incl;li
study of land use in Israel, D. Amiran links the establishment
of terrace systems to economic and demographic factors;;
''the amount of labour invested in these ancient terraces and,:
their maintenance was tremendous, an investment possible
only when labour' was a cheap commodity and when the crops
grown on these terraces commanded a good price in a stable
market" (J 962: 102). Beaumont envisions a correlation
between terracing and high population density in the history
of eastern Mediterranean farming (J 976: 133-135).
Even where population is dense and labor cheap, the
existence of terrace systems "raises questions about
mobilization 'of labor and the social organization
production" (Netting 1968: 3; see also Barlett 1980: 554 who
mentions the issue of compulsion). While the terracing of
slopes in a populated hilly region may not have been the kind
of project necessarily entailing centralized organizatton-anc
support,it was an activity which demanded cooperation ,or
singleness of purpose within a community that applied this
kind of special treatment to its environs (Spencer and Hale
1961: 2). Such cooperation has been demonstrated by Ron for
the construction of terraces surrounding springs in the Judean
Hills. He writes: "Each spring-irrigated terrace area and
irrigation system was built as a complete unit designed. in
advance, taking into account the size of the irrigable area"
(I 966: Ill). While, the terraces which Ron has studied surely
do not derive in their present form from the early Iron Age,
the dynamics of such terraced areas would seem to demand a

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation &: Control

systemic approach at any point in history. For non-irrigated

hill-slope terraces, too, Edelstein and Kislev argue that
"cer1ain"pattern' of•arrangement '. of' terraces would' emerge
once it became clear that building terraces at random is
undesir able,". Ideally, the whole slope would be developed as
a unit 09&1:55); Whether terrace system construction was
the impulse of smaller or larger forms of social organization,
however, does not change the need for mobilizing labor and
compelling a contribution in work-hours far in excess of the
demands of a non-terrace agricultural enterprise. The
building of terraces is a classical example of the
intensification of agricultural systems which demands a
significantly higher total input of labor than a non-terraced
regime. The major question which the existence (or posited
existence) of widespread terracing in the Highlands occupied
by early Israel raises, then, is the question of the availability
of labor to construct and maintain the terraces.
This question about the availability of labor has been raised
lately in a small number of the many studies relating to
agriculture and the expansion of settlement in the Highlands.
Edelstein and Kislev, for example, ask whether land shortage
relative to population density might have encouraged
inhabitants of the Highlands to adopt such a labor intensive
and relatively low-yield technique as terracing (1981: 56).
Stager suggests that the construction of terraces in the
Highlands was stimulated by the swell in the population which
accompanied Israelite settlement. Population densities
become "sufficiently great to require terracing in order to
sustain agriculturally based villages," as terrace construction
served to forestall degradation of a pressured environment
(forthcoming). While the mechanism which underlies this view
of the intensification of Highland agriculture makes good
sense, the previous examination of the population landscape
of the early Iron Age suggests that densities had not in fact
become sufficiently great to compel the intensification of
farming through terracing. In fact, Stager sets the date of
the achievement of "pressure on resources" so early (I200
B.C.E.) as to render it almost meaningless. The construction
of terraces is seen as arriving with the establishment of new
settlements rather than after these settlements themselves
had experienced growth that might have exerted some
pressure on their productive bases. The villagers that settled
~Al and Kh, Raddana "were well advanced in the technique of
terrace agriculture when they established their settlements
de novo on hilltops and laid out their terraced plots on the

Hopkins~-The .HighlaI1ds of Canaan

§19ge~ ben~athl';(~tager:.tforthcorniJ)g)."(etthe size,

g["iiPhic)\t~tability,~. <.U1c:ldi~fibution,;.pf ;settlementsi
e~rlY·lr0!1;yl\ge.aighlands ..do;nQt .·.'JI.!n·(SUpport .1,0('; <;thisii
date~;;';'!'+i!H . .. . ..>: ,. . .
lrJ,f~!{:~ .6f. ~his·.popu1~ti~~.;picture,.·h~.\.lt'~ver,·;itcO\,l
argued:thatterracing is the absolute minimum require
of any> and alLagriculture in the Highlands opened up in
early Iron Age.ln most discussions of agricultural settlem
in .the Highlands terrace systems are, in fact, viewed
minimum level of special treatment set by the environiment;~;;.;p;.
a level that must be met without regard for the
social forms it demands from the settlers. Ron labels as
known" the fact that "agricultural regions of
Medit~rranean cannot exist without terracing" (I 966:
Geus asserts that ·!it was the terraces which made aglricul1:url~.··
possible on the slopes" (1975: 70), and Borowski goes so
to claim that "settlement . could not have been ac:hH;:VE~d;;;;;
without" terracing of freshly deforested hillslopes
see· also Reifenberg 1955: 35). For Carol Meyers,
terracing techniques are a prior condition for
the Highlands. She views terraces as among the technologtcat
innovations that "resolved the environmental
made this demographic shift [the settlement of
Highlands} possible" (1978: 95).
There is good reason to believe, however, that terracing
not the minimum threshold of intensity at which agricultural
systems in the Highlands must operate. The reasoning which
supports the view that terracing is a prior condition lacks
solid foundation. Most of those who hold this view that
terraces are a necessary first step, base their claim on the
susceptibility of the soil of the Highlands-hillsides to erosion
and on the acknowledged fact that terraces are the effective
way to prevent its devastating consequences.Cropscar4
however, .be grown successfully on slopes without terracess
even the 20-30°· slopes which are prevalent in the Highlands
(see also Huntingford 1932: 335). The risks of soil erosion may
be perfectly obvious to modern commentators, but examples
of short-sightedness among pre-industrial cultivators are
numerous (Symons 1978: 26). There is no reason to suppose
that early cultivators in the Highlands were any better
prepared to recognize and heed the signs of soil erosion than
many of their successors. It has already been noted that the.
assumption that cultivators farm their environments under'
the> influence of long-term considerations of continued
agricultural viability is overly optimistic. The combination 9!

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation & Control

these two factors- the ability of slopes to support

cultivation, although not in the long run.and the blindness of
many .traditional farmlng . communities to the devastating
impact of soil erosion and its long-term consequences - casts
great doubt over assertions about the indispensability of
terracing to Highland settlement.
These considerations may be sufficient to dislodge the view
that the growth of the settlement of the Highlands in the
early Iron Age was accompanied as a matter of course by the
construction of terrace systems. They should, in any case,
make .plain that the terracing technology provided no pull
toward settlement in the Highlands and cannot be regarded
as the "technological innovation" which permitted that
settlement. It is much more cogent to assume that terracing
in the Highlands was a response of the Highland communities
to exigencies encountered as the duration of their settlement
This is precisely the view that Spencer and Hale put forth
in the context of their attempt to account for the beginnings
of terracing. Against the supposition that concern over soil
erosion prompted the development of terracing techniques,
they argue that the "concern over soil erosion is a late
development." "Soil erosion, and its prevention," Spencer and
Hale assert,
becomes a concern only to peoples who have long oc-
cupied a given landscape, who become gradually aware
of growing scarcity of agricultural lands, who must face
the task of enlarging their agricultural productivity, or
who must face the task of regaining productivity in a
landscape suffering from soil erosion (1961: 26-27).
Such a view recognizes the interaction of food-producing
communities with their environment as a process of moving
toward and falling away from a situation of relative
equilibrium in which both the human community and its
environment vary over time.
Considered from the standpoint of their roles as stabilizers
of the soil environment of the Highlands, terrace systems
may not have played an important role in the Highland
settlement and cannot be rearded as a minimum level of
special treatment demanded by the environment. Yet the
primary importance of terraces for the ancient Highland
agriculturalists would not have been their service in the soil
balance but their role in the water balance of their regions.
The contribution of terracing to water conservation and

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

control has been outlined above. Chref among its values is"
control. of • • runoHand •the 'increase iindePJ:~~futts~o:~ge:
water 'penetration that ' it '. provides.·'iThe"impt1rtancexof,tfl
capabilities' can be made ,dear' by, recaUingtwo 'observati
about theclimate of· theHighlands.;,iFirst,the>concentra
of the Highlands' rains in a shortrsea:son and
consequently 'high intensity' resurt.. insignificant 'i. rates
runoff. Between 12 and 38 percent av
able rainwater is lost to agriculture as runoff. (See ",hnVip5'/'{
Ch.4 §A.5.) While farming communities can do nothing
crease the intensity of rainfall ,which their lands re(:eive;;"i/'
terracing provides a way of significantly reducing the amount'
of losses to runoff. Similarly, the increased penetration
rainwater which terracing makes possible is a
advantage in a seasonal climate where the soil ordinari
carries no water reserves from one growing season
next. Terraced hill slopes will experience a
replenishment of ground water supplies and thus be rendered's
less vulnerable to the vagaries of the rainfall regime. both of
these contributions of terracing to water conservation
to increase the stability and the productivity of agriculture,
Such benefits, moreover, are observable in the vear-to-vear
operation of an agricultural system and appear as oositrve
gains in crop yields and drought resistance. This contrasts
with the gains of soil conservation which are primarily,
preventive in nature. It is in their role in the water balance
of Highlands' agriculture that terraces could more plausibly
be viewed as a minimum threshold for agricultural activity.
"The art of terracing," writes Davis in his study of hill
country dry farming, "made agriculture more dependable in a
land of varying resources" (1981: 9). Yet even viewed from
this perspective terraces are no necessary prior condition for
agricultural settlement, though they ·do appear to offer a
great adaptive advantage in the uncertain
environment. The character of the population landscape 'of
the early Iron Age does not warrant the conclusion that the
advantage of increased reliability offered by terracing had
become compelling at this time, even if i the necessary, input
of labor could have been mustered.' Under different
conditions that would have made stable productivity a more
desirable and essential goal, the construction of terraces for
the purpose of water conservation would be a vital feature of
Highland agricultural systems.
It might be possible to venture beyond this conclusion if
one could be more certain. about the dating ," of

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation &. Control

agricultural terraces which litter the Highlands today or

which r'are'<tmceveeed in archaeological excavations. Even
approximate; or terminal-crdates are difficult to assign,
however, not 'only intrinsically, but because few ar-
chaeologicalprojectshave ventured beyond the walls of
settlement sites to investigate the subsistence base where
terrace structures are located. One of the results so far
achieved in the investigation of terrace systems by Edelstein
and his co-workers shows only too well the difficulties
involved and the extent to which more work is needed. They
have been able to distinguish five different types of terrace
wall construction, but have been able to assign only two of
these types to historical periods no more defined than Iron
Age and Roman-Byzantine. The three other types have eluded
dating altogether (1982: 52-53).
The major obstacle to dating terraces is that they
generally are not directly associated with occupational re-
mains and, because of their construction principles, do not
entail any characteristic masonry art. Possibilities for dating
terraces are few and blunt (see de Geus 1975: 68-69). Objects
may be found underneath or within terrace walls. If datable,
such objects would provide only a "terminus a quo" which is
complicated by the distinct possibility that small objects such
as sherds may have washed down into the terrace wall from
upslope. While hedges around interpreting this kind of find do
exist, the chances of uncovering pottery and the like in
terraces should be high given the careful attention which
some terrace builders have paid to fill. Thus Edelstein and
Kislev have enlisted the help of ceramic finds in dating the
terraces of Mevasseret Yerushalayim (I 981: 56).
Assigning a date to individual terraces is also possible when
they are found in stratigraphic contexts, though one cannot
expect the frequency of such finds to be high. The presumed
terrace wall found in the area G at tAi has been dated by its
stratigraphic context to the Iron Age (Callaway 1969: 16).
When later construction takes place on top of existing
terraces, "terminus ad quem" may be set. Thus Ron has been
able to date the spring-centered terrace sytern in Abu-Gosh
to the period prior to the time of the Roman reservoir which
was built over the top of it (1966: 113).
Other methods of approximating the time of the origin of
terracing either in the Highlands themselves or in general
have been attempted without reliable results. Spencer and
Hale have intended their typology of terrace types to be
helpful in dating, but it is based on too little evidence to be

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

trusted (l96l:25-30). Stager has attempted to seta'~termi

ad.quem\',forterrace ~~Jmo1.ogy.:that wouldpredate.lsr
settlement in the •.• Highlands by appealing to the occurre
the word "Sdmt,"·. translated \'terraces," inUgariticp
Stager argues that,!'already by the late Bronze Ageter
vineyards were a common enough sight in the hills be
Ugarit that bards could evoke their imagery insustai
metaphor without fear of being misunderstood" 0982: 11.6).\1
remains to be explained, however, how the
terraces around the populous city of Ugarit on
coast can be taken as evidence for their appearance
Highlands centuries later. For this to be true one
forced to adopt the mistaken view that the art of terraci
spread by diffusion because it constituted a "pull" to,,yards1:.it:S
use in an intensive agricultural system.
In the absence of hard data, many authors are
date the appearance of terraces in the Highlands
influence of other considerations upon which
construction appears to be predicated. Thus, for example;
Borowski opts for an early date in line with his belief
terraces are a minimum threshold technology: "The extensive
use of terracing in the hill country was introduced by
Israelites in the early days of their settlement in this
as a means for creating agricultural land" (I979: 28). De
focuses on the importance of security for terrace systems:
So one must assume that such valuable and
installations as the terraces, which extend often
more than a kilometer from the village, with
at a considerable distance, presupposes [sic)
units of some significance, if not the territorial
the Iron Age (1975: 69).
Security would appear to be an important consideration,
even if it were the decisive factor, the dating
suggests is centuries-wide.
Dates suggested for individual terrace systems
archaeological investigation do not resolve the questions
when terracing was first practiced on the Highlands, when it
became widespread, or when it reached the extent
today both the functional and collapsed remains of terraces
indicate. The excavators of 'Ai have uncovered what may
the earliest-dated terrace wall in the Highlands in area\\G
downslope from the Iron I village. There is no proof that
lengthy section of wall is an agricultural terrace, but it
traverse the edge of the slope "in an irregular pattern" which

Chapter Seven - Water Conservation & Control

is/ viewed as highly unlikely for building foundations or

defense works (bot compare the outer Iortificatton walls at
Gilohdescribed in A. Mazar 1981: 12-17). The earth held in
place by the wall overlays remains of Early Bronze age
houses, and thewaU was itself butted by a second terrace
wall placed in the Byzantine period. The terrace wall would
thus most likely date to the period of the unwalled village of
Iron I, 1220-1050 B.C.E., though no other confirmation of
these data is reported by the excavators (Callaway 1969:
15-16). Evidence of terracing at the nearby same-period site
of Raddana is much less sure. Callaway and Cooley report
only that "there is evidence of either terraces or remains of
huts on the hillside, and Iron Age I pottery is on the surface
of the ground" (1971: 14). Excavation of the hillside might
turn this pure conjecture into a reliable piece of evidence.
Mention has already been made of the excavation of
Edelstein and Kislev at Mevasseret Yerushalayirn, Here the
combination of pottery sherds found in conjunction with the
terraces and the dating of the associated settlement site
yields the most trustworthy indication of terrace age. The
earliest level of occupation is Iron II, and 8th century B.C.E.
pottery from the terraces is plentiful, with no earlier
specimens found. Since some later sherds were also found in
the terrace soil the Iron II period must be thought of only as
the date when the initial work was undertaken; construction
and maintenance continued up through the Arab period.
Observing that many of the terraces around Jerusalem appear
to have been constructed at about the same time, Edelstein
and Kislev suggest that the terraces of Mevasseret
Yerushalayim are but one small part of a large agricultural
project undertaken by some centralized authority. They name
King Uzziah, the 1I10ve r of the earth," as the likely architect
of the enterprise (1981: 54, 56). The continuing investigation
of terraces around Jerusalem will help determine if there is
any basis at all for this conjecture.
At present, then, the evidence for dating the terrace
systems of the Highlands and the introduction of terracing
into the Highlands is inconclusive. What is clear is the great
adaptive advantage that a system of terraces would confer
upon an agricultural community which was equipped to apply
this special treatment to its environs. The especially
Significant contribution of terraces to the priority task of
water conservation and control would add stability to a
community's agricultural system and render it less vulnerable
to the omnipresent vagaries of the Highlands' rainfall regime.

Hopkins c- The Highlands of Canaan

The benefits of terracing in this respect w0\.l~d b~ o:Qvio\.i

immediate•.. Yet it is important to.: rell)ernber.~~J:".
constructioQ. is •.••. not • • th~ . • . ,,~~ne.i.q~l1OrVli9f7.agri .:
settlemeI)tinthe Highlanc;ls. Rath~.r::Jc;ostly .tesrac~tsy
must. be .': viewed as the .•. respense >ofalong,:"tenured
developing community to demands for a 1l)0r~stab1E;
dependable productive regime, whatever the formw
those demands might have taken.

C. Irrigation

One of the reasons why terracing with its

efforts at water conservation and control would recommend
itself to Highland communities confronted with the
intensify their agricultural systems is the dearth of
possibilities for achieving agricultural stability. through werrer.••
management. Stream irrigation, to take the most
example, is possible only to the most restricted extent
area poor in perennial streams and rich in deeply
valleys (Dalman [1932, 2: 31] notes the absence of a rechruca]
expression for irrigated land in the Bible). Cisterns
reservoirs, known from early periods in the Highlands,
serve only a limited agricultural purpose because of their
normal locations. Areas in proximity to springs, on the other
hand, probably attracted settlement from the earliest times
and were the focus of intensive agricultural efforts
throughout Highland history. For example, the potential of
irrigation through the "portholes" in the Siloam tunnel
through which water could be spread to fields in the Kidron
Valley has often been noted (Shiloh 1980a: 17). Ron's study of
terraces in spring areas makes plain the intensive efforts of
cultivators to avail themselves of perennial water supplies.
Surrounding the springs in the Judean Hills, Ron found al)
extremely high proportion of elaborate irrigation wor~
consisting of collecting pools and reservoirs, irrigation
conveyors and channels, and the leveled terraces to which.the
spring-water was directed (1966: 111-116). While the present
form of the irrigation works does not permit a date earlier
than Roman times, the presence throughout the HighlandsiI)
all periods of so much attention to ensuring the water supply
in all its available forms suggests that irrigation systems
around springs are also ancient. From spring-based irrigation
systems, favorably situated communities could reap-r-a
productive bonanza which would extend not only to
dependable, high-yield harvests, but would. enable two

Chapter Seven - '\Xi ater Conservation & Control

harvests in place of the one generally permitted under

Mediterranean conditions (Vogelstein 1894: 18; Semple 1931:

D. Field Techniques

Terracing and irrigation, however limited, are the two

major strategies for water conservation and control which
could have helped Highland communities achieve a more
productive and especially a more stable and flexible
agricultural system. Various field techniques would have
constituted another set of strategies, one which, while less
dramatic than major terracing and irrigation construction and
invisible in the archaeological record, would have also
contributed to water conservation. As Walton has put it, "the
principles of moisture conservation are basic to dry-farming
practices," and practices based upon them would surely have
characterized agriculture in the Highlands (1969: lIS). The
creation of a "dry mulch" through repeated and shallow
plowing stands as the most important of the field techniques
designed to conserve precious soil moisture (Forbes 1976: 7;
Walton 1969: 119; Barrels 1939, 1: 312). The plowing serves to
break capillarity in the soils, and thus while the upper soil
layer becomes extremely desiccated, the moisture of the
lower layers is protected from evaporation. Weeding also
contributes to maintaining the soil moisture by reducing
transpiration through weed leaf surfaces. We will have the
opportunity to discuss these and other field techniques in
more detail when we take up fallow practices and the labor
demands of field work below. Suffice it to note that the
effect of many of these practices on the agricultural water
balance will be a decisive consideration in their adoption and

I, lS7




CoU~ct.ing Du.ng fur Fuel.

Chapter Eight



A. Introduction

NCUMBENT upon every traditional farming com-

munity is the task of protecting its soil environ-
ment and conserving the plant nutrients that it
provides. Several features of the Highlands com-
bine to heighten the challenge of this task for
its agricultural settlements. Chief among these is the great
erosive power of the region's intensive rainfall which
threatens hill-farming communities with the loss of their soil
base and impels preventive measures for long-term survival.
The dry, seasonal climate limits the rate of soil formation
and the characteristic vegetational cover is not generous
in its contribution of organic material. To meet these
challenges, several avenues for the maintenance of soil
fertility and the protection of the soil base were open in the
early Iron Age highlands. These included both measures
which serve to restore nutrients to the soil and those which
act to temper their loss. Among the techniques which serve
either or both of these objectives are fallowing, crop
rotation, fertilization, and terracing. The place of these and
other techniques in the soil conservation regime adopted by
Highlands' cultivators might be better elucidated if accurate
information about the nutrient demands and yields of crops
relative to the innate fertility of the Highlands' soil were
available. In the absence of such data, a description of these
practices must rely upon ethnographic analogy, agricultural
science, and scattered classical, biblical, and talmudic
references and allusions to agricultural practices. The latter
must especially be treated with caution since one can scarely
be certain when an ancient source, be it Yarro or the
lawgiver in Exodus, speaks idealistically or reports descrip-
tively about the agricultural system of its time.

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

B. Fallowing and Land-Use Intensity

All but those agricultural systems characterized by

most intensive land-use allow their land units some period(~
rest subsequent to cultivation. This agricultural fallowing.iit
basically a strategy for halting decline in crop yields due
the exhaustion of soil nutrients and the build-up of endemis;S("?\'
pests and diseases over the course of the cropping period. The..
fallow allows the land a rest .from the nutrient demands of
the crops and a chance for replenishment of these nutrients.:?
The fallow also breaks the natural pest cycle which permits
diseases and harmful insects associated with particular crops
to return year after year. The ability of a fallow period to
accomplish these. two . objectives, especially the.Jor
depends to a large degree upon its length. As an integra.l
of an agricultural system, the length of the fallowingp
is, in turn, dependent upon awhole range of variabI~s.
shifting cultivation regimes of the' tropics, for examp
where leaching-diminished soil nutrients are exhausted aft
only two or three years of cultivation and land is plentiful,
the period of fallow may extend to some twenty years. This
lengthy rest permits the' complete restoration of thenatuhH
vegetation of the land, which is the key toreplenishment\6f
soil fertility. Under short-fallow systems, like those of the
Mediterranean region, the fallow-period vegetation never
becomes more than a thin covering of weeds and grasses
which falls far short of the restoration of the natural
vegetation (Grigg 1980: 37-38). To the extent that weeds and
grasses also deplete the available soil nutrients, theIr
presence may even be a negative factor under short-falloW'
systems. For this reason short-fallowing techniques are only
incomplete vehicles in the restoration of soil fertility
(Russell 1973: 336 lists the conditions which make for good
Besides contributing to the restoration of soil fertility and
the control of deleterious pests and diseases, the fallow also
can play a role in conserving precious soil moisture (Gras
1925: 25; Grigg 1980: 34; Semple 1931: 406; contra Beaumont,
Blake, and Wagstaff 1976: 165). It can play this role when it is
correctly managed, that is, when the land is not simply left
to sit passively for a season but is properly worked with this
end in mind. The most efficacious fallowing "requires
constant husbandry" (Walton 1969: 120; see also Semple 1931':
386). The evapotranspiration that robs the soil of the wate~
reserves it accumulates during the rainy' season ordinarfly

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation & Fertility

leaves a cropped or unworked field devoid of moisture long

before the end of the summer months. (See above, Ch, 4
§A.5);Theevaporationof water from the soil can be halted,
however,byrepeated plowings of the fallowed ground during
summer months following the cessation of the rainy season, a
practice known as soil mulching. The plowings serve to break
capillarity by creating a deflocculated layer of soil through
which the subsoil moisture cannot be drawn up. "Below this
dry top layer," reports Forbes, "the soil remains surprisingly
damp" (1976: 7).
It must be admitted, however, that repeated plowings of
fallow ground would be a labor-intensive practice carried out
under the heat of the summer sun. Thus Borowski has argued
that'v'since plowing was a time and effort consuming activity,
it is sage to assume that when sowing did not take place, as
during the seventh year or the year of the Jubilee, no plowing
was performed" (1979: 79). This observation has some cogency
especially given the demographic characteristics of the early
Iron Age Highlands. Against the gainsaying of the practice of
plowing of fallow ground as a rule, however, it must be
pointed out that all agricultural practices are dependent for
their performance on the availability of labor, a diminution
of which might, of course, lead to the neglect of many
important elements of a stable agricultural system. Thus the
plowing of fallow land is also conditioned by factors other
than the desire to avoid any additional labor. Furthermore, it
may be that the plowing of the failow resulted in labor-saving
during the cropping seasons, as, for example, a reduction of
weeding due to the destruction of weeds by plowing (Forbes
1976: 7). Another labor-saving result of summer plowing is
the prevention of the formation of a hard crust that plagues
clayey soil that is baked all summer long without relief
(Walton 1969: 120). Where the importance of water
conservation is high, the plowing of fallow ground was,
accordingly,an integral element of fallow practice.
This bare-ground fallowing (as opposed to green fallowing
which rotates grain crops with leguminous pulses or grasses)
and its associated practices function to remove land from the
demands of continuous cultivation, aid in the restoration of
soil fertility, break the natural cycle of noxious plant pests
and diseases, conserve accumulated soil moisture, cut down
on weeds, and render the preparation of fields in the
following year less arduous. The practice is not, however,
without its baneful effects. In particular, the absence of
ground Cover on the fallowed land during the winter months

Hopkins - The' Highlands of Canaan

of heavier rain makes/the' soH of the fallowed land .that

more vulnerable to erosion (Beaumont, . Blake;' and "'Wag
197(,:45; Butzerd97lf:64).;Repeatedplowings.exacerbcit
vulnerability and also, open the 'door,~ider{towinde
(Walton;A 969:';.120). Thus;the roleiof·thefallow· i
conversation' is double-edged.
From the. standpoint of fallowing •practice, what was;
intensity of land use in the agricultural systems of High
Canaan, that.is, what crop-to-fallow ratio characterized
agriculture? Before attempting to answer this
mustdirst remember.that the variability the
en vironment of Highland agriculture circumscribes
usefulness of any general consideration of land-use in1~erlsi1ty"
Combining with a diverse geomorphology and a heterogeno
rainfall map, the wide spectrum of soils" with theirvaryi
inherent fertilities and physical settings,also presents limi
to ageneralpicture.ofland-use intensity. One would not
all be surprised by the operation of a relatively higl1~~,;
intensity agriculture in certain especially advantageous loct
(e.g., arable land surrounding a water source). Even in,a(
uniform envlronrnentv-however, land will likely be farmed ina;
variety of intensities corresponding to natural growth anq
development within a given community, not to mention,
locational factors,': Thus, from all angles one would expect
that land use in. the Highlands was characterized by a mix of;
intensities during most periods.
But what was the typical land-use intensity? The so-called
"sabbatical-year law" of Exodus 23.10-11 commands the;
fallowing of fields one year out of seven. If such were the
agricultural practice generally characteristic of . the
Highlands during the early Iron Age, then one would have feY
label the system as one of extremely high intensity, bordering
on continuous or permanent cultivation /27/. It is plain,:
however, that a considerably lower ratio of crop to fallow
period has prevailed in the Highlands, as well as in the restor
the eastern Mediterranean, throughout its history of
settlement. As an example, discussing the question of the
observance of the sabbatical year in the Second Temple
period, Vogelstein notes that one arrives at the view from.
talmudic sources "that a single fallow year in seven did not
suffice and that the ground must have been left fallow more
often for the fallow comprised the most appropriate means
to supply the ground with freshvitaHty" (1&94: 4&). Based
on literary sources and on the practices of contempor-e
arytraditional farming communities, it appears that the.

Chapter Eight - SoH Conservation &: Fertility

sab1)atical ,year Iaw, cloesnotclescribe or enjoin a com-

pr~gensivei9r iflclusi"e~ystem otagri<.:;ultural <fallowing,
tnPiJghitcloes conr.:reJiz~.~n<:fsanctify a singl~elementof the
whole. Present scholarship 00 thesabbaticabyear law fails to
see this distinction (Driyer 1902: 17Z...1&0;Frey 1957: 10.3-104;
Neufeld 195&; North 1954: 118-120;de Vaux 1961: 17.3-175).
Rather than a highly intensive pattern of.one year of rest in
seven, the fallow practice of antiquity was most likely a type
of short-term fallowing in which a year of cultivation was
followed by a year of fallow (so Feliks 1971 a: .375; Turkowski
1969: 21; van Wersch 1972: 186). Under most circumstances
the conduct of this biennial fallow system would entail a
division of a farmer's holding into two parts which were sown
and left fallow in rotation so that the continuity of
agricultural production was maintained (Turkowski 1969: 21;
Vogelstein 1894: 59). To say that a farmer's field was divided
into two parts, or that half was sown while the other half was
fallowed, is not meant to give the impression that a farmer's
land was in such a setting (e.g., in a plain) that it could be
parcelled out evenly. Rather, an individual's total land
holding likely consisted in a number of distinct fields spread
over a variety of settings. This total holding was divided
roughly in half for the biennial rotation (contrast Borowski
1979: 219).
The fallowing system of the ancient Highlands may have
been more complicated than this picture of an alternate
crop-fallow serves to indicate. Yet our ability to suggest a
more intricate design is limited by our lack of knowledge.
Three questions adumbrate the borders of our knowledge: Was
a green fallow entailing a rotation with pulses or artificial
grasses within the realm of possibility and practice in the
early Iron Age Highlands? Were bare or green fallows integral
to a larger rotational system spanning two or more
agricultural years and including dry-season as well as
wet-season cultivation? When, if ever, should the impact of
the stipulation of the sabbatical-year law on overall fallowing
practice be calculated?

1. Green Fallow

The existence of a green fallow is well attested in Roman

agriculture. While a full biennial legume rotation was never
achieved by Roman agriculture, a partial legume rotation in
which a period of green fallow substituted for the bare fallow
at regular intervals was known by the .3rd century B.C.E.

Hopkins -The Highlands of Canaan

(White' 197Ob:. '113) /28/. However,'whHewe can be cett .

th~"erllergence •.•. ~f- .s0rlle •• forrll0flegllrlle . rotati~
devel()po;entcfrorn' •.,bienflial, "bare ·'fallo\\,IngEln •..·R()rll~n
·notadreof.blblic'71· agr-onomists canstepf()rwa~d.:int~f·
of <the classical 'sources of informationaboutthelS
practice. We are left only with proof that it was Poss.,,>.>
under Mediterranean conditions,' to overcome •the obsta~!t~
especially' the summer drought, which stood in the way'?!
continuous rotational cultivation (White 1970a: 290). .'
The possibility of legume rotation in the ancient Highlati~~
may be at least held open by demonstrating the eXistence'~~~
cultivation of leguminous crops .in the early Ironf\9~'
Borowski presents an analysis of plant terminology preserye,?
in the. H~brew .Bible and plant remains" uncov~r~
archaeologically that confirms that most. of the legumifl~~
crops known early in European and Near Eastern historyw~I~
indeed known also to the Highlands (1979: 137-142; not all(),f
these finds come from the Highlands). Broad beans (Vitia
faba; "pol"), lentils (Lens cuiinaris, Medic.; Iltada~tm"), vetch
(Vida ervllia, .Wild., ?), chick peas (Cicer arientumI.;~;
"harnls" ?), and peas (Pisurn sativum; ?) are all well atte.~ted
throughout the historical periods by archaeological finds.~e
existence of these crops alone cannot be taken as proof o.f
the practice of legume rotation, however, though it may
sound plausible to argue that ancient farmers could have
observed readily its beneficial effects in their fields.
Borowski has appealed to what he believes is indirect
evidence for legume rotation provided by the prohibition of
the sowing of "two kinds" O<il'ayim) in Lev 19.19 and Deu~
22.9 and the attention to the proper placement of crop~
shown in Isa 28.23-'29 (I979: 224-226). At most these texts
provide .evidence for the segregation of different crops,
however, and it is a large leap indeed from that practice to.~
rotational system. Soil scientist Russell warns that thefac~
that the fixation of nitrogen by legumes is "the most
important natural process for increasing the nitrogen content
of soils" should not lead one to overplay its importance
even where it is available to farmers. Just "because a c
leguminous crop fixes nitrogen," he writes, "it need not t
enrich the soil in nitrogen. There is a general tendency for 1
leguminous crops grown for their seed-peas, field beans, q
soybeans, and groundnuts - to reduce the nitrogen content of w
the soil" (I 973: 351). This is so because a large percentage g1
of the nitrogen they fix is removed with the harvest (Russell m
1973: 3&1). Thus simply determining that a legume rotation WI

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation « Fertility
was possible. is only 'the beginning of the inquiry about the
place of such a rotation in fhe·agricolturalsysfem as a whole.
The underdeveloped state of "our understanding of the
dynamics ofJegume rotation under Mediterranean conditions
is .noRelp in this respect. The total picture is not so dismal
that a system of green. rotation in the Highlands should be
ruled out altogether, as La Bianca does for the Transjordan
for example (1982:21), though the probability that legumes
played a significant role in early iron Age agriculture is low.
Certain conditions may have worked to enhance this
probability. White opens up one inviting avenue in this re-
spect when he ties the adoption of partial legume rotation to
increased demand for grains. He writes:
The alternation fallow - winter grain - legume - spring
grain makes an appreciable addition to the annual output
of grain. It is significant that in Europe after the decay
of Roman power and the reversion from an urban
civilization making heavy demands on bread-wheat for
town consumption, there was a return to the old crop and
fallow system over most of Europe (l970b: 122).
Strong encouragements to the adoption of a legume rotation -
::>1 the demand for bread grains or animal fodder - may have
ly cemented a more important place for a green rotation.
s, 2. Crop Rotation
)f The same problem of data limitations beleaguers attempts
Jt to specify the broader pattern of crop rotation in which any
)s fallow system played a part. One must agree with Barrois:
ts "One cannot prove ••• any methodical attempt at crop
s, rotation for the ancient epoch" (1939, 1: 312). Yet it is
worthwhile opening this question just to take note of the
:t possibilities of and constraints on broader systems of
st agricultural rotation, especially the relationship between
\t summer and winter cultivation. Relying upon contemporary
.e practice in Palestine, Gustav Dalman has paid considerable
a attention to the two types of cropping arrangements which
It the seasonal climate prompted in the region (1932, 2: 130-
Ir 136). Since grains and most legumes demand significant
s, quantities of water for the greatest period of their growth,
.f while crops like chick. peas and sesame only need a moist
e ground for the germination of the seed and demand only
II meager quantities of moisture for maturation, dry-season and
n wet-season cultivation patterns have emerged. As Dalman

napkins - The Highlands of Canaan

sees~tt: the task pi the farmer is lIto proceed boto>at

appropriatetim~andin.expedientways as well as.to·e
th,e ..'. dght;.;reJationship',r: between. Cbothc"kinds,<of
arrange~fltsjn:.the,:exploitation •.. of' . the soil" •;(19
13.0-131>. ;Therequired planting and harvesting times for
summer and wInter crops mean that summer' crops ca
follow winter crops In the same file since the formermtJst~;,s
in the ground before the latter have been harvested.,~ ,
reverse is not true, however, and summer crops wiUbe
harvested. long before the rains of winterhavesignaled·th~r·'
initiation of wet-season planting. It ris possible, therefore;,
that summer crops maybe followed by winter crops after,
which the field must rest at least the five months until the
next ;.vinter. Stretched out over a few years, this relation?hip;
between summer and winter crops expresses itself in two:
characteristic patterns of rotation. Under system A;a
summer crop is followed immediately by a winter crop after!
which the field lies fallow during the rainy season until the,;
next summer crop is planted and the cycle begins again.
Diagrammatically, this appears as so:

1 2 3 4 5

I go I CD CEJ I ITl@

Fig. 3. Possible rotational pattern A.

It will be noted that over the course of four years, this

pattern includes two periods of rest from the heavy demands
of grain crops during the rainy season. It is essentially ,a
biennial crop-fallow rotation with both winter and summer
crops being taken. Under System B, a summer crop is
followed by a winter crop which is followed immediately
another winter crop, after which a pause through the rainy
seasons brings the cycle around again to the summer planting.
Diagrammatically this appears as so:

1 2 3 4 5

CD CE 9O--..--_¢r=j §
Fig. 4. Possible rotational pattern B.

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation IX Fertility

Such a system is significantly more intensive since over a

longer span of five years it includes only one period of rest
during the rainy season when the growth of grasses and weeds
and strong weathering contribute to soil nutrient replen-
The point of displaying these somewhat theoretical patt-
erns is not to suggest that something similar characterized
rain-fed farming in the ancient Highlands. Rather, we note,
first of all, that Dalman's record of the existence of the more
intensive system B among communities practicing traditional
agriculture with no industrial inputs communicates something
of the flexibility of field arrangements. Two winter crops are
grown within two years with no intervening period of fallow
but the dry summer months. Secondly, we note how biennial
fallowing incorporates possibilities for some kinds of summer
crops should a community require them. In the case of
leguminous chick peas, these crops might even be regarded as
a kind of green fallow through the summer months.
As far as the importance of summer planting for the
ancient economy is concerned, Dalman is skeptical. The
winter cropping pattern observable today among traditional
communities corresponds well with that of antiquity, Dalman
argues, "while the summer sowing must have been much more
limited, so much so that probably it by and large did not take
place" (1932, 2: 136). Most recent works apparently agree,
since the possibility of a summer crop (actually planted in
late spring) receives scant notice in studies of agriculture in
ancient Israel. Borowski, for example, does not even mention
it in his discussion of the agricultural calendar, even though
he reports that some crops, sesame and millet, are sown in
the late spring and harvested about two months later (1979:
70-71). Yet Forbes has observed a technique of growing
vegetables, including beans and squashes as well as millet and
other crops, during the summer months in lowland southern
Greece which should caution students of ancient Highland
agriculture not to be too rash in dismissing the possibility of
summer crops just because the season appears so forbidding.
The practice observed by Forbes combines multiple
ploughings to protect the subsoil from the sun's desiccating
heat with the careful planting and tending of plants.
The seeds are sown in shallow pits, roughly one pace
apart, with a pint or so of water poured into each pit
immediately before sowing the seed. When the plants
have sprung up, but are still quite small, they are given

Hopkins- The Highlands of, Canaan

another. pint. of water so. that they will 'growfargie .eno

to put down.roots into the clamp $ubsoiJ.)11)isli~,t~
:~~;~:in~ •. • t~~t~he·:.plan~:7c~~V7 • (I976:7~~.:,:"/+'.}T~f;:;"'·")J:~
Forbes does not report oh tfi~' extent of thi~int~~l
summer. planting or the level of/the comrn\jnity's d~
upon It. No doubt they are not great•. The)a.b.or.dei:l')?n
this practice is considerable, especially, )t\Vould. a.l'l'
relative to the yield per .hectare of these thinly sown plil
Whether this. kind. of summer cultivation was kn()\V1')
practiced in the ancient Highlands is also beyond. our,a..pi
to determine. Yet the existence of this techniquet'
suggests that. we not close the door too quickly on suw
cultivation, a component .of .ancientagricultllraL,pra.S
which could have provided an additional measure ofelastJ
and, thus, resiliency to, . agricultural production in

3. Sabbatical-Year Law

The third issue of importance as regards

land use in the Highlands of Canaan has
possible impact of the sabbatical-year law.
the provenance, date, or character of this
latlon, we may ask hypothetically how such a nr;,rtirp ,-VlU>\l;...
have formed part of an agricultural system in early
Age highlands (in addition to the literature cited earlier in
this chapter, see Alt 1966: 103-171; Cazelles 1946; Jepsen
1927; Morgenstern 1928; Paul 1970; Rost 1965: 255-259 on th¥;
date and provenance of this legislation). The most iml'ortan~f
observation has already been made. The stipulations of thT,.
sabbatical-year law, it was shown above, do not encompas~,~
complete system of agricultural land use: fallowing wasmus!J;., l
more frequent than the one year out of seven which the l'i!:~t I
enjoins. With this observation we have avoided the Pitfa.Vr'..
which has trapped many scholars who, apparently. in thT~/
absence of any appreciation of agriculture, have taken th T I
sabbatical-year law to describe the totality of agricUltural!..
practice in ancient Israel. Such thinking leads, of course, t a l
the quandary of how community farming so intensively coulc:hi
ever survive the absence of a full year's harvest. Talk about I
idealistic legislation begins, and the search is on for evidence •
about when and if the sabbatical year was ever observed.
These are all legitimate concerns, of course, but naivete
about the intensity of land use in the ancient Highlands spurs
the eagerness to address them before the possible place of
Chapter Eight - Soli Conservation (\( Fertill ry

the sabbatical year in the largeragricultural system has been

How,wouldacommun!ty-wide fallow occurring every seven
yearsfitinto.the biennial fallow practice? Beginning with the
strategy that sees a farmer's holdings divided into two parts
so that half is cropped and half is fallowed every year, one
recognizes immediately· that the sabbatical year would break
the normal rotation for only that half of the farmer's holdings
which were scheduled to be cropped in that year. While this
has no effect on the amount of crops which the community
would do without as a result of the sabbatical year, since a
full year's produce would be eliminated regardless of the actual
percentage of the total land that was idled for this reason, it
does make plain that the farmer was not left without options
as regards augmenting production in the year previous to the
sabbatical fallow. In this year previous to the sabbatical, the
farmer could increase production by eliminating the fallow
(F) of an area (P) just cropped (C). In order to compensate for
this heavy use, this area would then be rested not only for the
sabbatical year (5), but also for the subsequent year as the
other half of the farmland (Q) continued in its regular
biennial rotation. This is illustrated diagrammatically below.

P C F C F C C 5 F C F C F C S

Q F C F C F C S C F C F C C 5

23456 7 234 567

Fig. 5. Sabbatical year in biennial rotation.

If possible by virtue of other elements of the system (espec-

ially labor . supply), this momentary increase of intensity
would augment production though yields would surely be
depressed in the field which bore the brunt of the increase.
Such a theoretical model for fitting the sabbatical-year
fallow in the normal rotation is not intended to make it
appear as a provision that could be handled matter-of-factly
by the communities of the ancient Highlands, but only to
render it more comprehensible and less menacing as an
agricultural institution. When the widespread views of the
sabbatical year as the center around which all agriculture in
the Highlands revolved or as the single means for the
restoration of fertility adopted by the ancients on magical

Hopkins» The Highlands of.Canaan

grgunQ$" <m~ abandooed,aplausible' place. ioritimrH"

agriculture, cannot so easily be ruled out. Other . asp
~h~rcagr~,<,Wtprpl".$Y$temj;;Qf..tbexHighlands .·would·al
cqntribu!f'fD§il)ithis);r~~t • ..,rhe .iregular.prodt1cti~t1
n9rlJlabsu~p1us,\thediversification "of .agric:ulturalp~
the pastoral.component .'. of'Mediterranean . agriculture;
social mechanisms may 'be called upon to' help explain'
ancient Highlanders might have been able to abandonstriC%~
agricultural.. pursuits every seventh' year. (See below, Ch. j 9
§C .3, 4). ..' . '. . . . ..>"t!;~j.;
One final and vital point remains to be made in concludi~,"
our consideration of land-use intensity and fallow practic:!.
We must not fail to note the theoretical bent oftheaoove
discussion and the fact that itdoes not take the variability'~~
the '. agricultural .environment •into account: Over the Iot.'lg .
term, no rotational scheme will flow smoothly (Dalmari1932,"
2: 133). Room must be left for interruptions incultivatisn i t
which are not intrinsic to the fallow system but are the result
of droughts, outbreaks of plant pests or diseases, or social
instability. To suppose any form or rigidity in the pattern of
cultivation in an environment such as that of the Highlarid,s
would be especially mistaken, and we must add to its natural
variability !berelativejnstabilityof each historical epoch.
The willingness of Highlands' communities to make
adjustlJl~[lts)n<3;I1Y rotational scheme in view of crop failure
and other interruptions would appear to be a social necessity.

C. Fertilization

Agricultural rotation schemes in the Mediterranean

characteristically include techniques of fertilization designed
to maintain the nutrient balance in the soil and to
compensate for the imperfections of bare fallowing (Grigg
1980: 38; Turkowski 1969: 24). Chief among these techniques
is some form of application of manure in order to restore
nutrients depleted by cropping. "Farmyard manure," writes
White, "is amongst the best of the more readily available
substances which provide the plant with those elements which
are necessary for healthy and vigorous growth" (l970b: 12/f).
As with green-fallowing practices, no biblical agronomists
have bequeathed knowledge of the existence of the practice
of manuring in ancient Highland Canaan or its extent or even
whether the ancient farmers of the region recognized its
efficacy. Archaeology can scarcely be expected to help
uncover' evidence of practices which leave 00 permanent

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation & Fertility

trace in the soil (Borowski 1979:217). Nonetheless the

Hebrew Bible preserves significant inferential evidence which
corroborates ethnographicobseryations aPout .the potential
importance of manure in .the agricultural •• practice. of the
Highlands. . . }. •. . >

The primary piece of evidence comes the form of a

simile employed mostly in prophetic predictions of a disaster
heightened by the exposure of the corpses of the condemned
community members. The prediction occurs five times using
similar language including the same word for dung, "demen":
2 Kgs 9.37; Jer 8.2, 9.21, 16.4,25.33. Jer 16.4 is typical:
They shall die of deadly diseases.
They shan not be lamented,
and they shall not be buried.
They shall be as dung (domen) on the surface
of the ground.
The simile itself does not reveal anything about the
agricultural use of dung, though we may infer from it that
the presence of dung on fields was conspicuous. The value of
dung was hardly on the mind of the one who coined this
expression. Rather the force of the comparison rests in the
transience of dung as well as in its worthlessness and
odiousness (see Job 20.7). That the agricultural use of dung
may lie in the background of these texts is suggested,
however, by one of them (Jer 9.21) in which the simile
employing dung is paralleled with another that is definitely
drawn from the agricultural sphere.
The human corpses shall fall like dung (de men)
on the surface of the ground,
Like sheaves behind the reaper, and none shall
gather them.
Stronger support comes from the sixth and final occurrence
of the word "dornen" in a simile descriptive of the death of an
enemy (Ps 83.11). The psalmist recalls what happened to
Midian, Sisera, and Jabin:
who became dung for the soil (hayti demen la'adama)
The "lamed" employed here would appear to be a "lamed" of
assistance or partisanship which would make this an explicit
statement of the recognized value of dung as fertilizer
(Williams 1976: par. 282; Borowski 1979: 220). One further
text helps to explain the appropriateness of this simile for
depicting exposure. Isa 34.7 sketches the background for this

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

usage by, referring to slaughtered animals (the

God) whose entrails will enrich the soil.
Wild 'oxen shall' faIlwit~1hem;
, and young steers with the mIghty
Their land shall be~oaked with blood,
, and their soil made rich with fat.
While the language of this statement is not the
technical language often used to describe the fertility of
(e.g., Num 13.20: "~emena" vs, "razat~ "fat" vs, "lean"),
connection between animal fat and blood and
fertility is dear (Borowski 1979:222-223). Thus the
that pictures corpses lying around "like domen on the surface
of the ground" approaches a literal statement.
All told, these texts from the Hebrew Bible provide
indirect evidence -. for .the existence of the practice
manuring or at least practical knowledge about the benefits"
of manuring in Iron Age Israel. While this conclusion does
explicitly encompass the .early Iron Age Highlands, the'
ubiquity of the practice of manuring in the Mediterranearis:
through time renders its existence highly probable. h:i:.\
Manuring (and the use of other fertilizers, organic and
inorganic) is such an integral part of modern, industrial
agriculture that one must be careful not to exaggerate the
importance of manure in the agricultural systems of ancient
Highland Canaan. There are limitations on the restoration of
soil fertility by the application of manure which are inherent
in the dynamics of Mediterranean agriculture. Manure is an
excellent source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as
well as all the trace elements required for plant growth. In
addition, "it supplies an abundance of decomposed organic
matter, and a rich assortment of bacteria and fungi which
contribute indirectly to soil fertility" (White 1970b: 124). But
how much manure was available in the ancient Highlands'?"
How much labor was necessary to husband it properly and to .
apply it to the fields? Did climatic or soil conditions permit'
the application of sufficient quantities of manure to replenish
soil nutrients? Brief answers to these questions will show that
the farming communities of the ancient Highlands must have
possessed some ambivalence about the benefits and cost of
manuring their fields.
The dry climate presents a serious obstacle to the
application of manure for the restoration of soil fertility;
Not only does it discourage the decomposition of manure, but
it sets upward limits on the quantity of nutrients that can be

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation &. Fertility

beneflcially introduced into agricultural soils. An oversupply

of nitrogen, in particular, can have a detrimental effect on
plants • by increasing their leaf surface and thus their rate of
transpiration and water use (Reifenberg 1947:135; Russel!
1973: 31). Too much nitrogen, Russell notes.v'will encourage
rapid leaf growth which will not contribute directly to the
grain yield but, by increasing transpiration early on in the
season, will increase the risk of water shortage at the critical
heading-seedset period of growth" (1973: 789). So any dressing
of manure must be carefully considered and the balance
between leafy growth and water supply kept constantly in
view. The placement of the manure is also crucial since the
addition of manure at too great a depth may break capillarity
between soil horizons by creating pore space and thus inhibit
the flow of stored water into the zone where it becomes
available to plants (Reifenberg 1947: 135-136).
The delicacy required in the application of manure in a
Mediterranean climate can be cushioned somewhat by proper
husbandry of available manure. What is called for in the first
place is the full decomposition of manure before it is
introduced into the fields. Thus, "the dung h111 possessed
special importance for dry countries like Palestine"
(Semple 1931: 408). The classical writers on agriculture paid
careful attention to the principles of the construction and
maintenance of compost heaps (White 1970b: 132-133). We
can only assume that similar care was shown at times in the
early Iron Age Highlands: the Bible preserves only hints about
the practice of composting (Isa 25.10; Luke 14.35) /29/. The
decomposition of the compost material into compounds
readily available to plants and non-injurious to the capillarity
of the soil is accomplished in a compost pile by turning the
pile regularly and by ensuring an adequate moisture level.
Some form of protection from the desiccating rays of the sun
will keep the pile from drying out. An impermeable collection
spot is also highly desirable to retain moisture and to
minimize losses of nutrients through leaching (Russell 1973:
639). Through these measures, a compost heap can provide
good fertilizer which avoids the water loss and crop burning
that results from the addition of fresh, unrotted manure to
the fields (Semple 1931: 411).
If composting is to be carried out, then farmyard manure
must be collected in a single location. Here the most
important characteristic limiting the use of manure in the
agriculture of highland Canaan is met. Not all the farm
animals are kept permanently on the farm. Pastoral activities

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

areoft~~dlrried.• out <by:Sp~SIaHstswho~razeHves~

f,roman:agriCUlturalCOOlffiUhietY's:;fieIds!or .tiv~,or ~ix'
gOatsthat:,rerllciiried; "Yf~f1in}the;c~O'lrnufli~y•. '•. th r~~gh
year.waslirnfted/' by 'i, :,a·:gen~r~r;'~hortage.;of .fodd~F
permanent>pasture. Even, ti'\0seremaining could no
cOhfinediwithin a radius that would permit their dallyr
to corrals and stalls, Iocatedinthevilfage, especlally-d
the dry ,summer months.' Thus, the greatest portion
manure of the community's livestock resources was
the farm~Ohly the" work Cinlll1als 'are regularly housed
in stalls.vthough it is possible that the practice of fa1:telniiJ~.
cattle installs may have been common (see 1 Sam ?~,2'1'i~; i,i
Amos:~.4,:Jer 46.21,MaF6.30,Hab 3.17, and
references to 'fatlings [merl). Stager presents
dence that stalls for these work animals were
the side room of the domestic dweHing (forthcomlng);' 01C'(('
sighifltance in this respect' is 'the high incidence
floors in these side rooms. As Stager notes, this pa 1,erner"ft'
would facilitate the easy removal of bedding
froll1the stalls to the compost heap. The use
bedding, it should be noted, is vital for the ... r.",,,•• r,,::>i"inr,"r\,'f'i
the fertilizer value of animal excreta since it both
dung together and absorbs the urine which contains a
portion of the valuable nutrients (White 197015: 124).
The circumscription of stall-feeding of farm animals
imposed by the seasonal climate means that the compost pil~:
receives only a small portion of the potentially available
manure and probably cannot be counted on to playa vital r~l~;
in maintaining soil- fertility for field crops. The amounfo~;
labor involved in carting the compost from the compost pil~,i
presumably ,located near the stalls, to the fields as weH~~!
that required for the husbandry of the decomposition proce~'
no 'i' doubt deterred 'farmers -frorn' increasing attention' to'"
Manure could also be applied to the fields by a less';
demanding method, however. The community's flocks and'
herds, including those, returned from dry-season pastures~
would be grazed on fallow fields, orchards, and harvested
fields where ''the most efficient manuring machines known"!
attended to the chore of fertilization (White 197015: 134).
Exoa 22.5, which defines responsibility and sets restitutio~~
in the case of the trespassing of, grazing animals on another's
property, can be best understood.. against" just such ,~c;~
background. At night the flocks were folded on the fields 'in'

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation & Fertility

alternating locations so that their excreta would be

distributed. evenlys-Dalman-sexplains that one cannot doubt
the existence of this practice in arrtiquity- "because the need
for fodder as welJas the (desire to provide manure no doubt at
that timebrougbt about the nighttime stationing of herds on
harvested and fallowed fields II (1932, 2: 145). Grazing on
fallow fields not only deposited manure but also served the
purpose of eradicating weeds. Grazing on harvested fields
permitted animals to feed on the stubble at a time when the
beginning of the dry season had faded the greens of other
pastures, The dung directly applied by sheep and goats would
not, of course, be as efficacious as carefully conserved
compost in supplying nutrients to the soil since it would be
exposed to the elements and become thoroughly dried out or
leached. It may be, however, that this paler form of manuring
fit more realistically into the agricultural systems of the
ancient Highlands since it both required less labor and
demanded less soil moisture for the plant growth that it
supported. Compost might have been reserved for vegetable
gardens or kitchen gardens which were worked more
intensively and supplied with greater quantities of water.
Besides manure, other types of organic fertilizers were
available to the farmers of the early Iron Age Highlands.
These need only be noted since they played no central role in
the agricultural systems. Semple (1931: 407) and Dalman
(1932, 2: 141) report that it was a common practice to burn
stubble in the fields and thus provide an ash fertilizer. The
Book of the Covenant contains a precept (Exod 22.6) which
most likely has in view the use of fire as a tool in the fields,
though it is impossible to tell if the burning of stubble is
involved unless the mention of stacked grain is a clue that
harvest is in progress. The importance of stubble as a source
of nourishment for. flocks as well as the inherent inef-
ficiencies of volatilizing most of its worthwhile constituents
by burning suggest that this practice did not occupy an
important place in Highland agriculture.
The case for the use of wood ash as fertl1lzer is, at least in
theory, different, since it is a very rich source of nutrients.
Wood ash contains no nitrogen, but is very high in phosphorus
and potassium. By studying its occurrences in the Hebrew
Bible, Borowski has shown that one kind of ash, "desen,"
consisting of the fat soaked wood ashes from burnt offerings,
found an agricultural application once it was transported out
of the cultic sphere (1979: 221-223). One can scarely imagine
that "desen" was available in an amount significant enough

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

to have had anything . but a very minor. role in Hig

.agriculture or., that tre.es;andotherwoody: growth w .
burned for the sole purpose oicreating ash fertilizer• .B
as' a . method of . field . clearance' -with. its , imro
enhancement of soH.fertility is another matter altogeth

D. '. Terrace Systems

Finally .we come again to terracing techniques which

been discussed above in depth. Terracing plays a dual rc>l~
soil conservation and fertility maintenance by both provi
a shelf where organic. matter and minerals can accurnul
thus ': replenishing the soil, and by preventing the 10
the .soil base. to erosion. .\Ve have already noted a
(Ch, 7 <§B.) that the adoption of terracing in the High
can more probably be viewed as a consequence of therol
plays in the water balance of the region rather than.
protector of the soil environment. Nonetheless it,
important to emphasize that terraces do playa vital rol~
stabilizing the soil environment, an indispensable role
the standpoint of long-term land utilization, especially gi
the great susceptibility of the hillslope soils of the Highla
to erosion. This is the essential point which emerges ag
and again from studies of' terrace farming communi
Elaborate terrace systems are a sign of an agriculture bei
conducted in balance with its soil environment. Terraces
represent the conservation of the soil base and stand in dire7~
opposition to what can be termed "soil mining," i.e.,tt}~
"consumption of the stock of soil, nutrients, or humus.'~.xw
mining may be an inescapable feature of theear-!y
development of agricultural regions, and it may provide,~
the maintenance or even the increase of agricultural out?~
over the short run (Ruthenberg 1976: 11). But itis~:
characteristic. of a balanced agricultural. systemnor;io~
about ., whose long-term stability one could be optimistic.
What stimulates a soil-mining community to become':i:l
terracing community probably does not derive fromat\Y··
discerning prescience. Rather the stimulus .comesirom:'~
experience of falling yields due to the neglect of the soil ba-~
or from pressure to increase output stemming from changes
in the situation of the farming community. The creation)~
terrace systems in the ancient Highlands of Canaan result~
both from the push of these kinds of pressures on the prac:t~~
of soil mining and the pull of the short-term advantage:9f
terraces due to their role in water conservation. '<'+~

Chapter Eight - Soil Conservation &: Fertility

..There are exceptions to the rule that existence of terrace

systemssigniiies a balanced and stable agriculture. Spores
haspresented<a persuasive case that the erosion which has
devastated the Nochixtlan Valley "was in large part
intentionally .lndueed and encouraged by pre-Hispanic Mixtec
farmers who wanted to expand and improve the "lama bordo"
terrace system"(l969: 563-564). This they did by exposing
soil surfaces above the terrace walls along natural drainage
routes so that these soils would be washed down, thus
enriching the terrace beds. This is a clear case of soil mining
in .order to maintain a terrace system. Similarly, in the
Highlands, .Ron has reported the existence of purposeful
erosion in order to make use of limited accumulations on a
particular type of Cenomanian limestone:
Efforts were.made to erode the pockets of terra rossa
soil formed between the lapies on slopes, into the
terraces below them by partly dearing the stones along
lines perpendicular to the slope, thus forming channels
and facilitating soil erosion (Ron 1966: 46).
One may wonder to what extent terraces of the valley
bottoms or of •wadi beds or even on valley sides may have
been filled initially or periodically renewed by efforts to
disturb the soils lying above them.
One of the advantages of terraced slopes is that they
provide leveled surfaces which make the job of the plowing
easier. Plowing along the contours of a slope (as opposed to
across them) in general constitutes a field technique which
also has a role to play in soil conservation since the furrows
thus created tend to trap water rather than providing
channels to facilitate its flow downhill laden with precious
soil. Similarly adapted for soil conservation is the plow of the
ancient Highlands, the "ard" or scratch plow. Instead of
turning over the soil as the mould-board plow is designed to
do, the ard merely opens the soil. This limits the exposure of
the more easily eroded lower soil horizons and leaves the
field covered with small lumps of soil that are more resistant
to erosive forces (Butzer 1974: 64).

E. The Soil Base in Highland Agriculture

While the statement of the challenges confronting

agriculturists in the early Iron Age Highlands with respect to
the protection and conservation of their precious soil base
comes easily, a definitive picture of the strategies adopted

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

remains' . elusive.TheJimitation on hard knowledge results

primarily 'from .'the nature. of .the .practices thems.el veswhi~.;
generally leaVe no lasting traces. Greatest certaintyc<;infJ~~;i
attached to the 'practice of the biennial rotation,lthougt;
little .af'.a . definite .'. nature . about • • green, fallowing,/the

sabbatical-year law, or a larger rotational pattern emerges 'to

flesh out this basic scheme. The consideration of land-use
intensity does produce an awareness of the existence of
possibilities for elasticity in crop production, possibilities
which the variable environment would urge forcennly-i.on
Highlands' communities. The availability of labor would
constrain the settlers' ability to make adjustments, such >a:s
those needed to compensate for the relinquishing of produce
during the sabbatical year. The function of such Institutions
with '. respect to the mobilization of labor cannot .• be
overlook~d, however. Labor supply also looms large in the
practice of fertilization where it joins delicate environmental
conditions and the seasonally limited availability of manure
in suggesting that no intensive application of composted
manure boosted yields except in small garden plots. Highland
communities may have had to be satisfied with a particular
level of yields which they could do little to enhance onia
broad scale. Terracing would have been a costly method of
maintaining a level of yields, a method that must have
become necessary or profitable at some moments in Highland
history. The portrait of early Iron Age Highland settlement
that has been emerging here suggests that this period was not
one of those moments. The apparent limitations on the ability
of these communities to apply to the environment special
treatments that would boost significantly absolute crop yields
adds importance to the strategy of broadening the productive
base in order to ensure subsistence.




Cana: Kefr Kenna.

Chapter !'< ine



A. Introduction
HE two most prominent characteristics of the
climatic regIme of Highland Canaan shape the
most vital pair of objectIves for the establish-
ment of stable agriculture: risk spreading and
labor optimization. The seasonal character
of the Highlands' climate and the climatically determined
agriculural year contrasts with the aseasonal demand for food
and produces periods of labor shortage as well as of
underutilization of labor. Under these circumstances one of
the priority objectives of agricultural communities is to
optimize labor, balancing demand and availability throughout
the agricultural year. The demographic characteristics of the
Highland settlements - their small size and instability -
amplifies the importance of strategies which find their place
in Highland agricultural systems in response to this aim or
contribute to Its achievement. Secondly, the variability of
the climatic regime, especially precipitation, necessitates
risk spreading, the distribution of a community's energies
across as broad as possible a spectrum of variably productive
agricultural and other pursuits. Diversification of subsistence
means is the chief strategy for spreading risk (Ruthenberg
1976: 25). As well as being a function of the relative diversity
of the environment, the ability to diversify depends largely
upon the availability of labor. In this and in other ways
labor-optimizing and risk-spreading objectives are closely
related so that strategies elected in line with one sometimes
facilitate but often run counter to the achievement of the
other. Together, these two objectives are manifest in a
characteristic structuring of work in the fields, land use, and
social institutions.
B. Work in the Fields
While agricultural operations traditionally associated with
Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

the Highland regions of Canaan have been described

detail. (see above, ch, 1 §A), no focused attention has
given to the relation of these activities and their associ~t
tools to the priority objectives of risk spreading and!
optimization of labor. Without repeating a full descriptiQn
work in the fields, plowing,. planting, .tending, harvesting,
other operations, an analysis of crop producing and processi
activities reveals several prominent ways in which they are
structured by the desire to spread risk and to make the rnost
of available labor.

1. Plowing and Planting

Wet...season.field crops<are the main focus of sUbsis,te

agriculture in the highlands, and of thes~, the cereal~~
and w~eal command the predomin~nt share of atten!i09
below, ~C::3}. Fr.om the perspective of risk spreading the
consequential consideration involved in grain production
the timing and conduct of plowing and planting.
No general .sratementof plowing and planting
the HighlanClscan comprehend the complexity of a fa.rmer',:>,
decision ~botitthe first operations of the agricultural
The misimaic cataloging of four plowings - one in the summer,
after the harvest, one after the first rain, one
plowing prior to planting, and one final plowing to
seed -" serves only as an ideal whose dependence on
agricultural practice is difficult to judge (Vogelstein 1~94:,
33-36). Based on his observation of traditional farming int.Q~2
Judean hills, Turkowski enumerates two plowings,. sinc,~';
"cereals must have twice broken up ground," but alsol1ot~f>
deviations 'from this norm (1969: 28; see also AschenQren~~r.;
1972: 58~~The purpose of the first would be to render thes6i}f;
more p()rous to therains .and less inviting for weeds'11)~f
second plowing .would be linked to planting, making {inilC
preparation for sowing. Isa 28.24' may refer to these same:,
two plowing objectives by its use of the verbs "ptb" (lito open'!
the soil) and "sdd" (lito harrow" the soil), the latter further
defined. by the verb "swh" ("to level" for broadcast sowing;~
see also Job 39.10). An additional plowing to cover the seed i~
possible, but whether rowed or broadcast, there wer~c
available less arduous means for covering seeds than another"
run with the plow (e.g., dragging a bundle of sticks or grazing'
herds over the fields). 'Whatever the normal practice, variety
would be anticipated.AsVogelstein puts it: "Plowing method
was not uniform throughout.' Local circumstances and

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading & Labor Optimization

differences among the farmers with respect to intelligence

and industry bad a diversity oisoiI-working operations as
theirconsequence",H894: ·33).,/<
Decisive amongcthe determinants of the conduct of plowing
apd planting was the farmer's decision regarding timing. On
land that had been fallowed the previous year, plowing was
unfeasible because of the hardness of the sun-baked soil,
Working the soil had to wait until the rains softened its
surface (Antoun 1972: 8; Borowski 1979: 79). Land recently
cropped could be plowed earlier. Yet for all intents and
purposes the coming of the winter rains initiated the
agricultural year and was the key in the farmer's decision
making process as well. Here the variability of the Highlands'
precipitation regime is decisive. The timing of the first rains
is not constant e . If the rainy season were to begin early, the
farmer could plant early and risk the night frost in the hills, a
lengthy rainfall pause before the heart of the rainy season, or
a heavy spring rain that might beat down precociously tall
stalks, hoping for a good harvest from a long growing season.
If the rains began late, then the farmer would be forced to
plant at a later than optimal time and would risk in a
diminished season immature grains at harvest. Yet whether
the rains began early, late, or normally, the unpredictable
shape of the rainfall regime through the season spelled risk
regardless of the moment chosen for planting. Thus the
variable environment encouraged a variable plowing and
planting schedule in order to spread the risk to the crops
(Feliks 1971a: 376). As Dalman writes:
Because the question is always to what extent the rains
will fail to fall over the course of the season, the whole
sowing must absolutely not take place after the first
drenching rain. It is necessary to carry out an early as
well as a late sowing so as to make the most of the
different possibilities of the weather (I932, 2: 176).
This practice of staggered sowing is one of the primary
strategies for spreading risk available to the farming
communities of the Highlands. To estimate the value of this
strategy one need only recall the vulnerability of newly
sprouted crops due to the absence of water reserves in the
soil at the beginning of the season and the fact that the most
frequently experienced rainfall pattern is the multiple peaked
season in which distinct periods of rain alternate with
intervals of dry weather. The dangers for the subsistence
cultivator inherent in relying upon any narrow period of

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan
... '

plantjI'lg, that is,1r\banking upon. havingcorrectlyanticipai'

the rainfall. pa~t~r(h~anscarcely~()y~~estimatE:!d. .
One .can picture the intersect1oncof:the;dimaticyeCl,
theproduction~. cydeLot.; particular) icrop$<as 'creati
optimal window {.Puring which plowing' andplantingwou
most propitious. Because ofthevariabiHty· ofthera
regime,however,it benefits the farmer to' stagger
over the length of this window. Lines 1-2 and 2 of the Ge
calendar indicate just such an extended plowing and plantin~?
period, lasting for four months. This is not the most efficie~t,i2
crop production strategy (e.g., it may increase the amount'6f
time lost in travel to the fields). It is a strategy that resists
regularization, and it does not aim at high productivity~y
risking a guess at. the weather. Yet it fitsweU'}~n.'
security-consclous subsistence agriculture and is well adapt
to other features of the Highlands. First, it can be integrat
with the • . on-again, off-again nature of the Highlan
high-intensity rainfall which brings several rainy day's
followed by several dry days, since field work requires 'at
least a dry soil surface (Dalman 1932, 2:194)•. Turkowski
reports that "farmers know how to take advantage ofth~
short breaks between the rains for the completion of the first
and second ploughing" (1969: 28). The spread of plowing and
planting over a number of weeks permits the marshaling of
limited draft animals to the task. The importance of this
feature is confirmed by studies of contemporary traditional
agriculturalists who employ the traction plow which show
that the limitation on the availability of draft animals. (not
all farmers own such) is a constant problem (Brush 1977:9);
Aschenbrenner 1972: 57-58). Apart from any dependency upon
borrowed or. rented animal power, plowing and planting In a
staggered pattern can normally beaccompllshed by. the
individual cultivating family. The staggered sowing schedule
similarly affects labor . demand through the course oithe
season and at its end. Stands of crops sown at various times
can be weeded in course, and the harvest, at which time labor
demand generally peaks, can also be carried out sequentially,
Staggered sowing also fits well with the fragmentation.of
fields, not only because of the obstacles to any other plowing
and planting pattern that field fragmentation presents, but
more precisely because the farmer can take advantage of the
varied placement of fields. By adjusting the timing. arid
location of various plantings to the. experienced rainfall
pattern, the farmer . can take into account the decisive
varying rates of water replenishment that different fields
Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

Ihebenefits of. staggered plowing and planting across an

optimal windo!. created by the rainfall regime quickly
disappear as a delay in or long pause at the beginning of the
rainy season or some other factor reduces the size of the
window. When the operations of plowing and planting are
constrained into a more concentrated pattern the risk of crop
failure mounts, difficulty in gaining access to animal power is
exacerbated, and labor may indeed be insufficient to conduct
normally the plowing and planting operations or even to
complete them. Variations from the norm of two plowings
could be expected. And should the farmer successfully plant
the crops, further snags in the allocation of labor wait
through the season, especially at harvest time. Failing the
opportunity or ability to achieve a propitious planting, the
farmer might be driven to sow crops outside of the optimal
window, risking a significantly diminished harvest or even a
total waste of precious seed.
By considering the hindrances that are created when the
practice of staggered sowing is obstructed, one obtains a
clear view of the importance of this strategy for risk
spreading as well as for labor optimization. The severity of
this latter problem would vary, of course, with the efficiency
and availability of labor, though the dynamic would remain
constant. The question ought to be asked, then, if there was
any marked change in the efficiency of labor during the early
Iron Age period which witnessed the emergence of Israel in
the Highlands. Such a change might have rendered the
community of early Israel more impervious to the vagaries of
the rainfall regime if it increased the community's ability to
plow and plant its fields during a constricted optimal period.
This question has often been answered positively with regard
to the introduction of iron which, it is believed, would have
permitted the forging of a better, more efficient plow.
The iron plowpoint
Assessing the validity of this claim necessitates a look at
two questions, the full treatment of which would lead beyond
the scope of this study: when did the use of an iron superior in
hardness to bronze become widespread in Canaan; and would
a plow with an iron plowpoint permit more efficient plowing
of Highland fields? The phrasing of the first question itself
reveals a fact which precludes a deterministic or simplistic
notion of the transition from the use of bronze to iron in the
early Iron Age. The superiority of iron is not a given in
ancient metallurgy (Waldbaum 1978: 68-69). The iron
available for the manufacture of weapons and tools under
Hopkins .«: The ,Highlands of Canaan

it"on") which ,even J.wben'(:old..worl<ed;~sW~i#1poor:isub$."
for' bronze'"(Maddin. MUhly,.andWheeler;1.9Z7: J 24) io"t
of J hardness, ductility, and .ability .... to/maintain;·shar
(Waldbaum 1978:· 69). The utility;;of iron matches
surpasses that of · . bronze vcrdy.ewhensesubject to. v
techniques. of ironworking': which •serve 'ito ; Increas
strength, name1y: carburization ("steeling"), quenching,"
tempering (see Stech-wheeler etal.198h 245-247 for;;;~,
technical description of ironworking).Thusthe appearanteit~~4'
iron plow points is itself not as important as the •appearanees
of iron plowpoints which have been intentionally worked i't(y
render them superior to their bronze counterparts.;;a~
On this question experts in ancient metal1urgyadmit~~
present data are inconclusive and that no certain deter~
rnination can be made of the date at which the productio~;!
of iron became the manufacture of steel. In thewordsof: one'"
group of specialists: "we do not yet have sufficient data to
make a general characterization of the adoption of iron and;
the development of iron making technologies in the ancient!
eastern. Mediterranean and Near i.ast" (Stech-Wheeler eta~;
1981: 268). The deficiency of data extends to all types:
literary, art ifactual (including not only iron implements, but
facilities for the production and working of iron) j30/,and
geological (sources of iron) and is somewhat exaggerated by
the wealth of analytical tools now available to further our
knowledge of this crucial transition. The use of both .optical
and electron scanning microscopes for interpreting metal
microstructures and methods of elemental analysis enable
researchers to determine the percentage of tlncontentof
bronze and carbon content of iron, to differentiate between
intentionally and accidentally carburized artifacts, to'
determine whether an implement has . been subject
quenching and/or tempering, and to assess something of the
level of technical skill achieved by the fabricator of any
particular article (Stech-Wheeler 1981: 247).
At present the results from this analysis are admittedly
inadequate and subject to a high sampling error because of
the small size of the sample upon which they are based.
However, they are beginning to contribute to the picture ofa
gradual and sloping transition from bronze to iron as the
"working metal" (Snodgrass 1980: 336 "iron used to make
functional parts of the real cutting and .piercing' implements
that form the basis of early technology") in Canaan drawn;
from other data, namely the comparative distributionot

Chapter Nine » Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

bronze and iron during the crucial period. Waldbaum's study

of this distribution shows that for Palestine "iron had not yet
completely <displaced bronze <for ; tools ••. and . weapons in
Palestine by the end of the 10th century, although it was in
the majority for. both categories. In terms of the criterion of
'common use'then, the.i'Jrorr-Age' can certainly be said to
have begun in Palestine by the IOth century" (I978: 41). The
results of the analysis of one group of iron objects from
Taanach are significant in the light of this numerical
analysis. (These iron objects from Taanach were found in
association with other finds that suggest that the area in
question was a metal working area or smith's shop.) Six of the
eleven objects analyzed showed evidence of carburization,
leading the authors to conclude that "steel was being
produced by the tenth century" (Steen-Wheeler et al, 1981:
255). This incidence of intentional carburization coincides
with the period in which iron tools and weapons surpass those
of bronze numerically. However, not all of the iron objects
recovered at Taanach were steeled, and the occurrence of
carburization turns out to be unpredictable on the basis of
the type of object (Stech-Wheeler et al, 1981: 255). Thus only
one of the two plowpoints examined was steel (Steen-Wheeler
et al, 1981: 249-251; Muhly 1982: 53). There appears to be no
certain explanation for this phenomenon, but one possibility
is most attractive; iron-working technology had not advanced
to the point of reliability (Waldbaurn 1980: 90). Such an
interpretation makes good sense when one considers that the
stimulus to switch iron came not in the form of observable
utilitarian advantages, but, as now seems most likely, in
escalating costs for bronze and increasing difficulties in
obtaining it in the period of social, political, and economic
disarray that marked the end of the Late Bronze Age
(Stech-wheeler et al, 1981: 265; Waldbaum 1978: 71-72;
Snodgrass 1971: 237-239). The constriction in the availability
of bronze ushered in a transitional period in which iron
technology developed empirically, impelled in various regions
by greater or lesser degrees of economic necessity (Snodgrass
1980: 337, 368). It appears that this transitional period ended
in Canaan in the l Oth century, but, as the Taanach artifacts
show, the technology retained a degree of unpredictability.
Snodgrass has noted that "even in a fully iron-based economy,
there may still be iron artifacts which bear no traces of
carburization or hardening" due to the variable skill of
individual smiths (1980: 338). Yet not only a question of the
relative abilities of individual smiths, it cannot be forgotten

hopkins ... The Highlands of Canaan

that the production of .steelediron.'was . the , result,;,

nasl:ent,.te<;hnology. ~bil:b .s~('edwith0thera;ncie!'lt;
f)Ologies.pc{ dearth cof.standardsiandthemeansto·;a
thern.(Se~.above,ch. 2§B.2.) If .. this interpretation
target,thenone must concludeithat. updhrougbti)
centuryB.C.E. the choice between bronze .and ironc
hardly. have been a dramatic one in terms of utility,a1}d
farmer in Canaan could hardly have been the consumecAr.. ,ii:
only superior iron plowpoints produced by the nasce.ijt
ironworking technology. .", ·.,.i"'l~j
Perhaps. the iron implements from Taanach andth~ir
implications do not mirror the situation in the Highlandspf
Canaan which are the focus of our study. Is there'ahy
evidence to .suggest that the Highland farmer made)~~~
earlier or any more consistent use of steeled iron? One~~n
turn, here, to but a small body of iron artifacts uncovereo'.f'.'1.
the Highland regions, none of which has been sUbjecttot~
same detailed metallurgic analysis as the Taanach material.
Iron objects have been found at four Highland sites occupies!
during the 12th-II th centuries: Har Adir, lAi, KhirbetR.a~:
dana, and Tel el-Ful (Waldbaum 1978: 24-25; Dothan 19&2:9}"
93). Of the total of eighteen objects, three may claim to~
agriculturally related tools /31 j: a pick from har Adir ,ira
possible plowpoint from Khirbet Raddana, and the well...kno'Vtl
plowpoint from Tell el ..Ful, Of these only the pick has been
studied metallurgically, though not fully. Muhly reports that
this analysis shows that "the pick was made of carburized
iron (steel) that had been quenched and tempered" (1982:4';
Maddin, Muhly and Wheeler 1977: 127). This is suchc:t!'l
outstanding find that it resists incorporation into historil:c:ll
reconstruction, especially since in general evidence showS
that quenching became a widespread technique. ~f
ironworking no earlier than the 8th century and that
intentional tempering surfaces only centuries later, around
the 4th century (Maddin, Muhly, and Wheeler 1977: 128-131).
Note should be made of Muhly's assertion that these four
sites stand out in the development of ironworking in the
eastern Mediterranean as the only sites at which iron appeat~
"independent of any evidence for contact with the outside
world" and are new settlements, home to no Bronze Age
metallurgical traditions (I 982: 50). (Tell el-Ful mayna!
belong to this category since the plowpoint was unearthed-In
a fortress [stratum II-A] which some claim [Sinclair 1976: 4lj.~;
Dothan 1982: 92-93; contra Aharoni 1982: 191] to have been
Philistine). It is not difficult to imagine that the development

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading & Labor Optimization

of .•. it"0I'l\Vor~ing .might ··.h~ve proceeded .ata faster pace at

tll~~ne\V~f!ttlf!mer~s,.Situat~d.at.scme remove-from the
broni,Tif'l?us~ry·arldtraqing· n'1echanisms,and .perhaps intent
up(mrnaintaining'theIrindependence. Snodgrass has noted
that . rf!l~tive to the.· international character of commerce
in· .• bronze (and especially the vital constituent tin), "one
effect of the .mastery of iron-working was ••• to increase
self-sufficiency and lessen the dependence on outside
resources" (Snodgrass 1971: 221). Whether new data will
provide support for the possibility of a differential adoption
of iron-working : fueled by a Highlands' desire for self-
sufficiency is, of course, unknown. In the absence of such
data it seems best to assume that the Highland cultivator was
no better off than the cultivators at Taanach who would have
experienced only varying success with the iron implements
produced by this nascent technology, to the extent that their
superiority over bronze would not have been a matter of
universal acclaim. It is hard to imagine that the iron
available in lieu of bronze at this time conferred any distinct
advantage upon its users.
This conclusion might be altered somewhat if one could add
to the suspicion that the Highlanders were spurred on to a
more rapid development of iron metallurgy by other factors
in addition to the desire for self-sufficiency. In fact, it has
often been postulated that the expansion of settlement in the
Highlands was materially predicated upon the coming of iron
implements capable of clearing the forested land and plowing
its rocky soil. One of the consequences of the large-scale
adoption of iron, de Geus writes, "was the opening of new
areas for agriculture" (I 976: 168). Gottwald also adduces the
importance of iron: "iron in Israelite techno-economics had a
great and immediate impact. Iron axes enabled more rapid
and thorough clearing of land, while iron plows, mattocks,
spades, sledges, etc. meant that more land could be
cultivated per unit of human labor with larger surpluses"
(I 979b: 655, but note p. 637). We can refine this deterministic
assertion somewhat and limit it to the suggestion that the
conditions under which the expansion of agricultural
settlement took place in the Highlands, especially the need
for clearing the evergreen forest and rnaquis and the more
arduous and demanding plowing of rocky hill slopes, impelled
early Israel to a more rapid appropriation and development of
ironworking in order to make an advance on the capabilities
of bronze tools. This assertion is less difficult to accept
though it is also not without problems. Forest clearance may

ti()pl<in~r Th~, Jjighlands. of Canaan

well.. hiiV~ .ffleD .•a<iS0ll)plIshT~,:witll0l..ltI11Hchlntef\s~.v~.·••t

ell)ployiDg,liiRgF.•V1~pl..lg8· . ~~I..l::;e .: ()+f~r~ .•a::;,.th~effect~y~ ..,'
l~f/~:·~[,~.··:··' . ·· . ,'~lRi¥~ii·'~~~·f~f~~rB1¥.:fuq<rt!PI1~r •...
ll"l9~T St9P . msJ9I>~~. oo~.f9r.~:li~?
cOI1Hf\U~~ ...Q).~ ,~anqH::;~.91 s()nz~·.p10~p()i.ms: . .
as . otne,( ·'.I..lt~ I •... '. .•..•. ~9j~t~)';. thrpughgut .·ttle'· Ir;pl)
evidTf\ce<i .,in.fings, fr()I1l!.tJ~ghlBl1ds~5sites•..lWprttly of. no.
thisrrgard iSJ.h~FonteInPoraneous:flPpearanceof bronze'
iron plowpoints in. the Iron Age at Ten Beit Mirsim an
Tel1eD-Nasb~b(Borowski 1979: .81; Ste<:h-Wheeler .et al-. l
259, n.fI; AlbrightJ943: 32-33, pl. 61:I...lf; McC()wn 1947:2
pl. 96:1-5; Arieh 1973: lt3-44). It maybe, however, that br()
plow points would dull faster and break . more oHery
HighI~.l"l~.?()iIs5 t
llanjn the less xo<:kyalluviaI .soils. ot&i.
valley'bottoll)sand ¢oastfll plains. Steeled iron may weU!l.~X~;'
providedaDa<fyafltage int8is respect. A steel plows.h~~·.
would hold its'edge 19nger .•(Ste<:h-Wheeleret al, 1981: 255).:(~:
It is qiffi<;ult to imagine a productive bonanza ensuing fr.Ci~i'
the introduction of steeled iron plowpoints based on such;e
slim advantage. Whether equipped with a steel plowpoint.,,%:
one of bronze, the basic d~terminant of plowing efficien{:l,>,
remains the traction plow,the "ard" as it is often labde~?
coupled to an individual beast or a yoke of draft animals.' Itl~
basic form of the "ardvhas remained constant since it:
introduction in prehistoric times: it consists of a long plp~
beam to which has been connected an elbow-shaped share
beam at whose end the plowpoint would be affixed (Turkowski
1969: 28-:31; Salonen 1968: 27-28). The characteristjg
functioning of this scratch plow has often been noted;~t
serves to break the soil from below, to cut a furrow thrp~g~I'
the soH without turning it over as. the mould-board plough;I~
designed to d.o (Turkowski 1969: 32; Forbes 1976: 6). 1N~. j
seemingly incomplete .. cultivation is linked towa;~~J.
conservation.and soil fertllttyrnalntenance in that it does fl~~!
expose deeper layers of the soil to the desiccating effects .ol ~
the sun while. at the same time it breaks the capillaryl
network through which moisture stored in them would '!

otherwise escape. Butzernotesthat the scratching ofthenarq:',1
h~llps dguar9 '.' agains~ th~ dep!etiodn. of 'lorgdanic matter,~~,'f
e SOl an against erOSIOn since It or man y oes not exposri
the more easily eroded B-horizon to the effects of tfle, I
weather(l974: 64). The very use to which this scratch plowi.~ j
adapted, It seems to me, restricts the .exterrt to which~t~ ~.'
efficiency can be improved by increasing the hardness of it~;
plowpoint /33/. lyloreover, the sp~ed of the traction plo~ J
2 2 2 1

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

is deterrninedby the strength and endurance of the draft

animals, .and~almanreports that· one of the principles of
field division rests>: 00 'the need to guard against the
overworking ,:and exhaustion of the animals (I 932, 2: 168).
Given the charactertstic-shallowness of the furrow cut by the
Hard, flit is unlikely that a steel plowpoint with more durable
edges would permit the draft animals to keep up a more rapid
pace. In . examining the corpus of plowpoints from Canaan,
Arieh has noticed a change in the design of the plowpoint
with the introduction of iron so that the ratio between the
point itself and the aperture that attaches to the plowshare
beam appears to increase. Stronger iron, he argues, permitted
a lengthening of the plow point so as to permit a greater
penetration of the soil (I 97 3: 44). Greater penetration, of
course, would require greater traction and slow the plowing
process. There is obviously a trade-off between the better
aeration of the soil made possible by longer plowpoints and
the speed of the plow, a trade-off which might be better
suited to the deeper loess soils of the Beersheba region than
the shallower terra rossa soils of the major portion of the
In light of all this we must seriously doubt any overly
positive answer to the question of whether an iron plowpoint
would have permitted more efficient plowing of Highland
fields. One can indeed suggest reasons why early Israel's
metallurgy would have been spurred on to a more rapid rate
of development, but these reasons cannot be said to stem
from the necessities of the expansion of agricultural
settlement in the Highlands. Evidence for the continued use
of both iron and bronze plowpoints joins a consideration of
the mechanics and functioning of the primitive" ard " in
suggesting that metallurgic developments in the early Iron
Age did not have a dramatic effect on the conduct of
agriculture in the Highlands. Thus, to return to the broader
question, there is little to suggest that the gradual switch to
ironworking increased the ability of the farming communities
of the Highlands to carry out the most essential agricultural
operation, to plant their fields during the optimal period set
by the variable rainfall regime.

2. Harvesting

At the other end of the growing season from plowing and

planting, the operations of harvesting present another set of
crucial considerations especially from the standpoint of labor

Hopkios» The Highlands of Canaan

supply .ThefJnani~()ldandseqlJ<;ntiaFsetofoperationsm
edin harvFs:ti'ng{m~e~it~e'rno~tdt!j;~nsivetmaj~r,o'
Of.·••·.tf1e.• • :<ag:icll1tur~l'ye~r..::'~pendI'1g:'iuP(;)n:tthe.';'(:e
plantinp' .tarrning;c0O"lrnunities·maYSP~tld;:as: major/po .
the. hpt, :dry:summep harvestingia;series;of.ripening'ic
fields (Turkowski'1969: .'105). As 'with. the first acts of
agricultural year"timing is imponantwiththe Jast,th
not as decisive. Attending to the ripening of cereals is not
plowing and planting are, a matter of great anxiety regard
the weather. If .the crop has developed .well throughout j~:
stormy rainyseason,ifespeciaHyit has. benefited from' ' ..
"latter rains," then the constancy of summer will advance ... ,
ripening process '. without obstruction. Yet for a maximuM':'
yield grain •.•• must: be harvested at aparticularmoment.-,;:D
Cereals shouldnotbeharvestedtooearly,and ripe grains';
cannot star forever in the fields. The standing grain coll.I(f1
"lodge," rendering cutting all the more arduous, or the ears 01.:
grain might shatter if left in the field too long beyond the' "
point of ripeness, resulting in the loss of many seeds. The:
particular moment for maximal harvests may be fairly br0a.?;
around three weeks for each stand, but it is real nonethelesS;:
On top of this, the sheer subsistence importance of the cereal
crops lent a sense of urgency to the process of ingatherlng., :'<1
As pointed out above, the practice of staggered sowing
facilitates a timely harvest since it spreads the maturation of
the crops across a temporal window, though some
late-planted crops will catch up due to the warmth of early
summer. Also contributing to the leveling of the labo~
demand of the harvest are the variable ripening times of
variously situated fields. This phenomenon is unambiguously
noticeable when the maritime plain and its branched vaHeyS
are compared with the hilly regions (Dalman 1932, 2:6;
Barrois 1939, 1: 313; Amiran 1962: 109), but it is also exper":
ienced within smaller regions of the Highlands thernselvess
Turkowski notes that crops sown in intermontane valleys and
other sheltered areas mature some three or four weeks
before the major portion of the Judean Hills. The particular
mix of cereals sown may spread harvesting and level labor,
demand, too, most notably given the differing maturation
rates of wheat and barley, the latter of which ripens about a
month before the former (Turkowski 1969: 103; Zohary 1982:
76). These different rates are reflected in the Gezer calendar
where the period of harvesting barley, "yrh gsr s'rrn," is listed
first among the harvesting periods, and also by the customatif
offerings of barley at Passover and wheat at the Feasts of
Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading Or. Labor Opt i rruza tion

Despite these . factors which may serve to spread the

harvest out over a relatively longer period of time and thus
reduce its intensity, it remains a complex task and one which
demands a degree of attention unlike other operations of the
agricultural year. Harvest involves a sequence of interrelated
acts: (l) the harvest proper - reaping or picking; (2) collecting
the, harvested stalks; (3) transporting the harvest to the
threshing floor; (4) drying the harvest; (5) threshing to
disarticulate the spikelets and remove the hulls (glumes); (6)
winnowing and sieving to separate the grain from the chaff
and to clean the grain; (7) measuring and storing (Turkowski
1969: 101-9; Borowski 1979: 92-102). Among these, the degree
of attention is most sustained during the reaping or picking of
the cereal (see Vogelstein 1894: 59-60 on various techniques
of harvesting). As with the other harvesting operations, the
difficulty of this back-breaking task is magnified by the hot,
dry, and stressful conditions of the summer during which it
took place and which probability limited tne harvesters to the
cooler morning hours (Paul and Dever 1973: 158). The fact
that the requisite tool for this operation, the sickle (Hebrew
"hermes" .Deut 16.9 and "rnaggal" Jer 50.16), continues
throughout the Late Bronze and Iron Ages to be made from a
variety of materials - flint, bronze, and iron - suggests that
no improvement of the material technology eased the
drudgery of the harvest (Borowski 1979: 95-96; Galling 1977b:
293). Indeed, as Pritchard deduces from the quantity of flint
sickle blades recovered, "much of the harvesting at Gibeon
was done by Stone Age methods" (1962: 114). however, it is
likely that some form of collective labor groups provided
relief in this respect and, thus, found a place in the
harvesting scene. Turkowski reports that the variable
ripening time of the cereals permits "relations and friends to
help each other harvest the wheat" (1969: 103), and Antoun
has made an analogous observation about harvesting at Kufr
al-Ma in the Transjordan, noting the inclusion of others
alongside the extended paternal family at harvest time (1972:
12). Reciprocal labor exchange devices are com man among
agricultural communities which experience great seasonal
fluctuations in labor demand (see, e.g., Brush 1977: 104) and
would seem to be all the more encouraged among ancient
Highland communities given the high priority objectives of
risk spreading and labor optimization.
Another form of communal cooperation, though not
necessarily labor sharing, that probably characterized the
harvest scene involved the use of the threshing floor. The

Hopkins ,.., The Highlands of Canaan

biblical ~videncedor"th~communalor private pwnership.:t

thre$hiQS·.,floor~• • • is1l>.i)(~~~,l<,~fer~flcesi·to.:t.i).e:t.i).l'e$hing:f.l
:t.i).~.,!~g5r~!'l,lkincly<l~·t~~;.!lgoreQ'!,Nakpn •. iQ!.2'Sam .6;6.Vl
thethr~shi!'lg··.floors()fthe. town of ,KeiIah,iaref~rence'. wQi
is open.toeither .interpretation(l·Sam.23.1),thethreshi
flooruponwhichEk>a? . . sleeps:which permits a .communal'i
interpretation (Ruth 3.2), and the.threshing floor at the gate
of Samaria which strongly favors it (l Kgs 22.10). Turkowski,
howeverv.reports-that threshing ..floors used collectively were
characteristic of the Judean Hills before the contemporary
era of individualized.iarming (I 969: 105). One of the great
limitations of ancient technology speaks for the existence of
a number of threshing floors, located propritiously for win~
nowing, but/at no great distance from the grain-producing.
fields: transportation technology was primitive and ineffic;;;o"
lent, The time and effort required to transport the harvest to;
the threshing floor could be decreased by increasing its
proximity to the fields. Sheaves of harvested stalks were
especially bulky and difficult to manage (see the simile in.
Amos 2.13), especial1y when compared to sacks of cleaned
grain. The proliferation of threshing fields would decrease
the extent of .communal '.cooperation entailed in this
operation of . the harvest. In less secure times, however,
threshing floors at some remove from the village would be
subject to raiding, a circumstance which would reassert the
value of communal cooperation (see Judg 6.3-6, 11, and I
Sam 23.1).
The necessary intensity of harvest and the high degree
attention that it demands (due to the need and desire to
harvest the fields at the most propritlous time and to the
nature of the sequential operations of the total harvest scene
themselves) lead to the conclusion that harvest time marks a .
peak in the annual curve of labor demand /34/. If the labor
requirement (work hours per period of time) is at its highest
during harvest, then a community's ability to meet this
demand at this time will be crucial. The amount of labor
available at harvest time may impose a limit on the extent of
crop production and, thus, on the extent of the areas that can
be profitably cropped. At harvest time labor supply appears
to be more decisive than the availability of land resources in
determining the extent of production. Practices (such as
staggered sowing) and environmental circumstances (such as
variegated land) which soften this limit are those which
result in a spreading of labor at least at this crucial time.

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

f'ressur:eswhich work in the opposite direction would

stirnulatemeanstolncrease the availability of labor. Given
the absence- of developments toward more efficient
harvesting •technology such as an "improved" sickle, such
means .\Vqulci likely be social in nature.

3. Vine and Tree Crops

Alongside field crops, vine and tree crops held an integral

place in the agricultural systems of the ancient Highlands.
These crops were crucial not only for their essential and
highly desirable products, but additionally for their fit in the
agricultural calendar dominated by the production of grains.
Tree and vine crops contribute to the diversity of the
Highlands' subsistence means in a way that does not sharply
compete.with but rather complements the other foci of
agricultural energies.
The complementarity of trees and vine crops results from
the pattern of care required by established vineyards and
orchards. Grape vines and fig, olive, and other fruit orchards
obviously entail a much longer lead time than field crops
between planting and harvest, but established orchards and
vineyards are stable for many years and yield their produce
with a minimum of care. While this is not a matter of
"complete repose" as Barrois exaggerates 0939, 1: 323), the
crop producing tasks can be undertaken fairly leisurely and in
an extensive rather than intensive manner. Lag time,
durability, and degree of attention required vary, of course,
with the type of vine or tree. The olive leads the field in both
lag time and durability, a result of its slow growth pattern.
Full yields are obtained only from trees that have grown for
several decades, but they remain productive almost
indefinitely (Boardman 1976: 189; Aschenbrenner 1972: 53).
The fig and the vine require a decade or more before the
beginning of significant production and generally do not
survive more than a half-century (Aschenbrenner 1972: 55-56).
The operations of the agricultural year for vine, fig, and
olive are similar in the fact that each requires cultivation (to
control the weeds in the fields, to increase the infiltration of
the rains, and to aerate the soil), pruning (to enhance the
development of the fruit), and some form of harvesting and
fruit processing. Among these operations, it is only the cul-
tivation that competes with the field-erop operations for the
available supply of plow labor, though the competition is not
fierce for there is no great time pressure on the cultivation
of vineyard and orchard.
Hopklns « The Highlands of Canaan

. . TJ;e patter~of acti~itlesdi'lergesgreatly when it corn~s~~\

;denla~de?;.' byeac~i~if1~2~ji
of fruit..ByfO;r~fl::rn().~t;s~ITIPle·andJl~~std:rn~nding'. i~'tJ'i~j20
fig· tree (FiCtis" carica D1;:~e'en~'!1';;l)rying'i~thejo?lf
i J

processing activity requiredr and the harvest· is ;·especi~lI~;i;'

unrushed and drawn out since the fruit of the fig tree ripe?~
not at once but incrementally over the course of the .summer
(Aschenbrenner 1972: 56-57). The only special demand oifig
production relates to its curious pollination system involvinp
symbiosis with a tiny wasp which reproduces in the flower's
(turned galls) of the male tree (caprrflg) (Zohary 1982: 58'.
For a significant production of fruit from the female tree,
the galls from the caprifig must be brought into proximity
with the flowering 'female fig at the correct moment. Thete
is . no direct evidence that this technique was known'; and
practiced in early Iron Age Highland Canaan (Borowski 1979:
170, n.99). Given the apparent importance of the fig in the
agricultural economy of the Highlands' villages, however, it is
likely that some form of positive interference in the
pollination of the fig was practiced.
The care of vineyards is throughout more demanding than
that of fig orchards. Vines (Vitis vinifera L.; "gepen") must be
trained - either into a standing habit supported by wooden
props or along the ground supported by a few carefully
positioned stones. The latter habit seems better suited to
conserving soil moisture and avoids also the cost and
maintenance of posts (Semple 1931: 397-399). If the vine was
trained to spread on the ground then cultivation around the
trunk necessarily required the strenuous use of the hoe in
place of the unwieldy traction plow (see Isa 5.6; noted also by
Borowski 1979: 162). Pruning (zrnr), usually carried out before
leaving in the winter, was an essential operation upon which
the yield of grapes is directly dependent, especially given the
desiccating effect of the hot sun during the summer when
fruit is developing. Too much vegetative growth can be
damaging. For this reason also grape leaves are thinned out
after the setting of the fruit. The products of thinning and
pruning are absorbed into the household economy (diet,
fodder, fuel).
These crop-producing operations are not intensive ones and
for the most part do not coincide with the operations of the
grain producing calendar. Pruning and cultivation take place
after the plowing and planting of grains have been complet-
ed. This complementarity is also true of the harvest and
processing activities, which tasks, however, are highly intens-

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading (X Labor Optimization

ive, Iheharvest and the processing of grapes are concen-

trated in a short period of time at the end of the summer and
do not stretch out like the harvest and processing of grain
(Aschenbrenner 1972: 51). Once grapes have matured, there is
considerable pressure to gather them before theyfaH from
the vines, become dehydrated, or fall prey to insect or animal
pests. Surveillance is vital as the grapes ripen and harvest
begins, and the vinegrower or harvesters likely spent the
night in the vineyard in specially constructed shelters (sukka
bekareru '- Isa 1.8; mlgdal - Isa 5.2; see Borowski 1979: 161).
Given the intensity of the harvest operation and the sheer
volume of grapes that even a small vineyard can produce, it
is not unlikely that harvesting was carried out by collective
labor groups (Aschenbrenner 1972: 56).
While table grapes were eaten, grapes were dried to be
stored as raisins, and grape syrup and vinegar were produced,
it appears that the largest portion of the harvest was
processed into wine. Winemaking is technically simple though
it does require suitable facilities, especially if large
quantities are to be prepared. Equipment and installations
which are cogently interpreted as designed for winemaking
are plentiful in and out of the Highland region of Canaan.
However, one encounters difficulties in arriving at a certain
dating for these agricultural installations, and it is necessary
to admit that few of the numerous wine-making installations
can be placed in the agricultural operations of the early Iron
Age Highland communities. Borowski differentiates between
two types of wine presses associated with Israelite settle-
ment and associates these with distinctive biblical-tech-
nical terms (1979: 165-166). The "yeqeb" designates a press
hewn in bedrock in or near the vineyard (Isa 5.2). As with
terraces, such installations, which naturally stand outside of
archaeological context, are difficult to date. The most
unambiguous and thoroughly investigated examples of the
"yegeb" are those found at the famous Gibeon winery. Of
particular interest is the "tread basin" of area 17 (locus 205),
a circular rock cutting about 3 feet in diameter and 1 foot 10
inches deep. This shallow basin is found in association with
other rock cuttings, including a large plastered vat (locus
204), that can plausibly be interpreted as a system for
pressing, decanting, and fermenting a great quantity of grape
juice (Pritchard 1962: 96; 1964: 10-11 and figures 5, 56, and
64). As far as the date of these facilities is concerned,
however, the excavators can only provide a date late in Iron
II for their abandonment (Pritchard 1964: 13-16, 27). Whether

Hopkins ... The Highlands of Canaan

these insteiletlcns-were-Innse before the Iron II

(1)1 Yl:>egu~sse<::f. ;"i;,';;'" , "if
]"1),e;;oth~ritYpe,,;,;{)~,;;Winepressi,jshthe,t,"gat",1';a '
manufactur~d,i.{)f $tpnes;an<i 'mortaran<::f.set;; ilkf<:li' ,V'
context (JUdg6.,H)"iThe,generations...l ong use-to which s
valuable agricultural,jnstallation is put , .creates ".; dating
problems ;·despiteits"location;. ina potentially,stratifieq
context. Theenost.isecurely dated and best preserved Ifgat'l '
has been unearthed,' at Gezer, a site in the transitional
Shephelah, The flooco! the press consists of "a single,ovCil
stone, ca. 1.6501 by 2.QOm"in which, was hollowed out a sump
for collecting the last bit of juice and toward which the stone
sloped. The walls were built of uncut stone, cemented by
mortar and plastered.; The quality and sturdinesssscf
construction are .noteworthy, testifying to the special
importance of this particular facijlty. Used through. two
strata, the .winepress (labeled a "vat", by the excavators}
dates to the. mid...12th, through mid-11th centuries, the Iron
I/Philistine settlement of Gezer (Dever, Lance, and Wright
1970: 25-28 and pl. 7&). Neither the "yeqeb" of Gibeon nor the
"gat" of, Gezer come from both the time period and the
region of interest in this study, but they are no doubt
representative .: of the type of facilities employed" in
winemaking in the early Iron Age Highlands.
While the high degree of processing devoted to the produce
of the vine finds a parallel in that required by the processing
of the olive, the pattern of care of the olive (Olea europaea
L.; "zayit") is much less full than that of the grape.
Cultivation-Is, of course, necessary, but the wide spacing of
the trees permits this to be carried out with the traction
plow. Pruning is not a separate operation, but generally takes
place during harvest. As with the vine, the products ofollve
tree pruning are absorbed .into the-household economy: leaves
serve .as fodder and branches as fuel for the fireplace and
oven. The need to fill in the characteristic hollows of the
trunks of olive trees is not a pressing one (Barrois 1939, 1:
The almost carefree maintenance of the olive during the
year is balanced by a fairly complex harvest and processing
picture. However, the demands of harvest are rendered much
less pressing by the stability of the ripened olives on the
trees. As Balynotes:
it does not matter very-much if the olives are left on the
tree for some tirne,before they are picked, so that the
farmer is able to gather his olive harvest whenever his
Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

work in the fields gives him time, either before or after

plowingan<lsowing his grain (1957:101-102).
Theharvesting>of . olives .entails a . m~~'<:>fthree methods:
primarily beatinq>the tree branches with sticks (Deut 24.20),
but also pruning branches to speed the process and reach
inaccessible fruits, and picking (Borowski 1979: 176-177;
Aschenbrenner 1972: 54). Gathering fallen fruit from the
ground caused few problems if the olives were destined for
the press.
The process of extracting and purifying olive oil involves
three steps and a few facilities. First the olives must be
crushed. Only one facility that can be identified as an olive
crushing installation appears in the archaeological record of
the Late Bronze and early Iron, Age Highlands. The lone
example is the large mortar unearthed at Bethel in the so-
called "olive oil factory" (Kelso 1968: 30 and pls, 85b, 89c, d).
Possessing an interior measurement of ca. 0.7m wide and O.5m
deep, this mortar from the Late Bronze Age was found in
association with other oil production equipment as well as
debris from the process. Mortars such as these could well
have crushed olives in significant quantities. There is nothing
in the archaeological record even remotely resembling the
round-stone crushing machines familiar in the Hellenistic
period and beyond. It must be considered likely, however,
that well before the Hellenistic period a more simply wrought
cylindrical stone was rolled over olives spread out on ahara
surface cut into bedrock in order to crush them (Forbes and
Foxhall 1978:39; Eitarn 1979: 148).
The second step in the oil extraction process involves
pressing crushed olives. This could be accomplished by
placing heavy weights upon woven baskets filled with the
crushed olives. Such methods would not have been very
efficient since only the dead weight of the stone would have
exerted pressure to expel the oil. Recent investigations into
this process by David Eitam have detailed a significant
improvement in the design of the press. By the 8th century
B.C.E. the above arrangement was modified by the addition
of a beam anchored in a wall above the baskets of crushed
olives that pressed down upon the stones that covered them.
The increase of leverage provided by the beam greatly
improved the efficiency of these presses. Forty such
installations have been discovered in a survey of the
Samarian Hills, and a number from other locations can be
added to this list, including the cut-stone installations found
at Tell Beit Mlrsirn and identified by Albright as dye vats.
Hopkins-The Highlands of Canaan

According ,to',Eitam"the' archaeo!ogicalpicture testifies,(fQ',

"an • . advanced state oLdevelopment".,reached byithis ··.b '.
pr:~~~., 9yring' ..the }, periodof\t~e ..mol'lilr<;hy< (1 279;, I 4(;.,.1
! 5()-1'52,.·1.~~)!' H()"YJarbflck.iet()the,~Clrl5'Iron.Age,the.J.,
of -: th.Ls '. d~veI9pment .stretchjs .not ret ..known•• It' isw
noting .that...the installations of . the ••"oHve. oil factory". ~rd
Bethel do not include. a pn~ssfor the collection of. oil. Ift~~i~
mortar alone .were relied upon for the crushing and tile.;
pressing, then the process would have been both incredibly'
slow and inefficient, with most of the oil remaining in the
pulp.' . . . . ....
The pressing operatio£l produces a mixture of olive oil and.
water (with the quantity ()fwater exceeding that of the cil.. by.
four or five times, according.to Forbes and Foxhall 197&: 34,
46)~ The. final stage of processing .olives provides for the
separation of the oil frornfhe water. This can be effected in'
numerous ways. With the Iron Age II installations described
by Eitarn, this separation was accomplished by the provision
of. a way for the buoyant oil to rise to the top of the mixture
and overflow into a lower collecting basin or jar (Eitam 1979:
1~9). Oil could be ladled from any vat in which the output of
the. press was' allowed to stand or the water could be drawn
off through an outlet at the base of the vat (Forbes and
Foxhall 1978: 29). A 2m x Irn x O.6m vat was part of the
"olive oil factory" at Bethel (Kelso 1968: 30).1t goes without
saying that such facilities as these could well have served
double-duty as winemaking equipment (Joel 2.24). It makes
sense that the community would seek to increase the
productivity of its large investment in these expensive
facilities by using them for as many suitable enterprises as
possible. This dual-use would be facilitated by the
circumscribed and non-overlapping grape and olive processing

4. The Structure of Work in the Fields

Several concluding remarks can be made at this point

regarding the structure of work in the fields. First, the.
interrelatedness of the operations of the agricultural year
deserves to be highlighted. While this appears to be a trite
observation, it has significant implications that are more
often than not neglected. As an example, it was shown that
the •question about the increased efficiency of the iron
plo\Vpoint remains open. But those who are willing togo
beyopd "tile. evidence to make a claim for the importance of

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

this material improvement for early Israelite society are

often oblivious to the fact that seed sown eventually becomes
grain to be harvested. The available labor supply at harvest
time imposes real limits to the amount of crop that Can be
profitably grown. The advantage of the iron plowpoint from
the standpoint of subsistence may be real with respect to
achievement of more reliable harvests, but often it is
presented as providing a productive bonanza. It meant larger
and less costly harvests that freed the society to shift energy
to other activities. But how can this be if the iron plcwpoint
stands next to the flint sickle in the tool inventory of the
early Israelite farmer?
The importance of a diversified subsistence base for stable
village life in the uncertain and variable climate of the
Highlands of Canaan cannot be overemphasized. Tree and
vine crops represent real advantages in this respect (though
the yields of these plants are also dependent upon the
weather), especially because of the complementarity of their
patterns of care with the grain-dominated agricultural
calendar. This observed fit of the tree and vine crops into the
agricultural calendar of the Highlands raises to a level of
consciousness the "labor calendar" that is implicit in the
course of the year. The times of peak labor demand are
clearly the time of plowing and planting when the pressures
on completing the process are great, and, higher than this,
the time of the grain harvest, that lengthy but intense period
of ensuring subsistence for the coming year. There are
obviously periods of low labor demand as well. The period
after the harvest and processing of grains but before the
preparations for the new agricultural year stands out most
prominently. Figs would, of course, be harvested throughout
this period, and the grape harvest and possibly the olive
harvest would occur as well, though these are relatively
concentrated events and would not monopolize these weeks.
During this and other periods of low labor demand that likely
occurred, labor would be available for other irregularly timed
agricultural tasks (such as wall building, clearing new land,
removing large rocks and tree stumps from the fields,
repairing agricultural installations) as well as non-agricul-
tural labors (house-building, larger labor projects). The
inter-seasonal lulls are not the only periods of potential of
underutilization of labor, of course, but are joined by
intraseasonal hiatuses. The changeable weather of the rainy
season, it has been noted, presents periods of dry days when
plowing can proceed alongside of periods when the rain halts

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

f rofO;~e fielcfs.'JLi •.. ••. • • •..
r•.• ·.0rle·••.·ot.i~.~i@ajor:il~~n:trast$cPetYleenJtlt::different p
oittle Ka.grkultural\Year<restsljn?the.·•.·q~aH'tyofthe]
demandedor~itoputjt. anottlec war, ,the degree of attenti6ti
required>from the community in' order to carry out ..~
various tasks. Some crops require periods of intensea.~?
sustainedeffort, a . more or Jless continuous application of
labor over a period of time, while the growing of others .ls
accomplished in a more •extensive and less concentrated
fashion entailing cnly :intermittent labor applications. T~
opposition, which is usually most obvious when comparing
agricultural systems of drastically different intensities (see,
e.g., Wadde1L1972: 218; Netting 1968: ll9),isalsoappare
within the. diversified system of, the Highlands. The contrast
between 'the fig and grape harvests is especially marked in
this . respect. So, too, is the .contrast between the
intermittent, albeit arduous labor of the plowing and planting
season and the fast-paced, concentrated conduct of the grain
harvest. More than just a measure of labor demand over the
run oithe agricultural year, this contrast provides an index
of the quality of life enjoyed by Highland's communities. The
social .i. fabric of these communities is woven both during
periods of intense (and perhaps communal) preoccupation
with specific. agricultural tasks (viz., the harvest festivals)
and less intense periods that permit participation in the
ongoing social and political life of the community. It is
difficult to treat this "quality of labor" index as an absolute
measurement; its importance would become apparent were it
to be employed as a relative measure contrasting the
agricultural system of one period .with another, say the early
Iron Age with the period of economic growth under Jeroboam
II and Uzziah,
Two ways in which the structure of work in the fields can
be interpreted as responding to both -Iabor-optirnizlng and
risk-spreading needs merit note. The premier strategy of
staggered sowing not only spreads the risks originating in the
variable environment, but is well accommodated to limited
supplies of both animal and human labor• Its advantages with
respect of labor availability are all the more apparent during
the harvest when the labor-demand curve peaks. Risk
spreading through the diversification of crops - wheat
alongside of barley, vine and tree crops alongside of grains -
also helps spread labor out across the full run of the year,
dampening the seasonal contrast. There can be little doubt

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

that full advantage was taken of the fit of tree and vine into
the agricultural calendar dominated by grains.

C. Land Use

1. Types of Land Use

Before considering the effect of the objectives of risk

spreading and the optimization of labor on the pattern of land
use in the ancient Highlands it is worth recalling the
definition of land use offered previously: the degree to which
a given plot of land is cropped over a period of time coupled
wi th the extent of capital and labor applied to it. (See above,
ch, 2§A.) Direct evidence for the types of land use sur-
rounding the typical village of the ancient Highlands which
can be delineated under such a definition is largely un-
available.Cropping frequencies leave no trace in the soil, and
centuries of farming and/or neglect have obliterated
whatever other vestiges of field systems might have
remained (Golomb and Kedar 1971: 139). Terrace systems are
an exception to this circumstance though dating remains
problematic. Indirect evidence comes from the Hebrew Bible
which preserves numerous terms that can be associated with
categories of land use and may be in some way reflective of
the situation in the early Iron Age Highlands. The terms are
certainly not systematized, however, and do not give the
appearance of technical terms.
A number of texts record what was clearly the most
important triad of land use: fields (sadot), vineyards
(kerfirn irn}, and olive orchards (zayit) (I Sam &.14-, Deut
28.38-40, and Neh 5.11; biblical Hebrew does not include a
separate word for olive orchard - "zayit" is used collectively
as well as to refer to the individual tree and its fruit). The
"fields" mentioned here are probably grain fields, though
"sadeh" possesses a very broad semantic range including land
in general and fields specifically planted in cereals and other
annual crops. Different plots within fields are labeled "helga"
or ''helgat hassadeh" and are said to be planted with barley (2
Sam 14-.30-31 and Ruth 2.3, 17) or lentils (2 Sam 23.11-12),
though the same term can also refer to a vineyard plot (2 Kgs
9.21, 26) or tenting site and burial plot (Gen 33.19 and Josh
The garden (gan, ganna) is mentioned as producing
vegetables (I Kgs 21.2) or fruit (Jer 29.5). Less clear, the
"karmel" is also filled with "fruits and good things" (Jer 2.7)

Hopkins- The: Highlands .Ocf Canaan

among which grapes..a ppearato-be included,lsa ·:16.10and;J'

48.)~)•.The: .:grol.lping••qf~land"iuse>,typesin.Amos '·4.. 9 (gard
[gannotekem]; vineyards·{karmekem); dig .•. ·orchardshe'e:n~~
kem]; andoliveorchards~z~!~ke:mJ)may ! ndicatesomething'
of theirproximity, geographic or economic, in Iron Age lL
The terms for terraces have been not~above:'~madrega'~
and: usedemot" (ch •• 7 §B). Stager finds literary evidence for
the standard practice of growing vines but also figs and olives
on these terraces (1982: 118). Elsewhere he contends that the:
early < Israelite • settlers of the .Highlands used .•.• terraces:
inefficiently •for growing cereals in order to remain:
independent of the Canaanite bread basketsH 975: 13). The
biblical. references Stager adduces provide a good.indication
of how terraces were cropped in monarchical Israel. and the
growing of cereals on terraces does find some ethnographic
support (Lewis 1953: 6). However, the explanation misreads
the nature of self-sufficiency (that is, subsistence security) in
Highland agriculture. "In-eff iciencies'' which promote crop
diversity are compensated for in the spreading of risk.
Further, given the role of terraces in water conservation and
risk reduction, the planting of the main staples - grains and
legumes - on hillsides that had been terraced would be en-
couraged. Any construction of terraces in the early Iron Age
Highlands would appear to create" a productive site for a
variety of crops and not one devoted exclusively or prefer-
entially to a single type. Crop specialization emerges in
economies dominated by centralized rule or participating in
broad networks of exchange (Hopkins 1983: 193-202).
A number of terms for pasture land are also preserved in
the Hebrew Bible. "Migras U (Num 35.3 and Josh 14.4) is a
prominent example. As Borowski notes, however, this term is
used nearly exclusively to designate priestly land attached to
the Ievitical cities (1979: 55, n.41). From the root "nwh" more
general designations for grazing land are unaweh" (2 Sam 7.8)
and the poetic term "ne'dt" (Jer 25.37,Amos 1.2, and Ps
23.2), often found in construct with "rnidbdr" (Jer 9.9, 23.10,
Ps 65.13, and Joel 1.19,20, 2.22) 1351.
Forested land in various stages of succession is termed
"ya'ar.' Arable land that has ceased to be cultivated becomes
dominated by "briers and thorns" (samlrlsayit; lsa 5.6, 7.23,
24, 25). Numerous other terms for garigueattest to
consciousness of the existence of this scrub land. (See above,
ch.: 5 §B). Isa 7.25 makes it clear that such land could also be
used directly in the agricultural systems of the Highlands: it
is "a place where cattle are let loose and sheep tread."

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

The land surrounding . an agricultural village would also

house/numerous > Jnstallati6n . loci, some directly used in
agricultural enterprises, which are a type of land use though
it. does not fit readily on the intensive-extensive scale.
Among the agricultural facilities for which the Hebrew Bible
preserves terminology are storehouses ('o~ar, lasam i m,
megGra), towers (rnigdal), watchman's huts (sukka bekarern),
threshing floors (goren), grape presses (gat, yeqeb), and
cisterns (bor).
Sacrosanct land constitutes one final category of land use
for which the Hebrew Bible preserves various references.
Included would be the high place (bama, 1 Sam 7.17, lO.5, LO,
13), "holy ground" (ladmat-qodes, Exod 3.5), and altars
(mizbeah), sacred tree groves (no specific term; see Cen
13.18), and grave sites (geber), though no tombs have been
discovered for the biblical period. Historical forces would
naturally be paramount in shaping the distribution of this
type of land use.
Based on this limited evidence of land-use categories
preserved in the Hebrew Bible as well as on the topography of
the Highlands and ethnographic analogy, the types of land use
surrounding an agricultural village in the early Iron Age
Highlands would probably include (in order of approximate
intensi ty):
(kitchen gardens and isolated tree plots) 1361
spring-irrigated terrace systems
hill and valley slope terraces
valley bottom fields
level hilltop and ridge-top fields, vineyards, and orchards
hill and valley slope fields, vineyards, and orchards
grazing land (including gangue)
rnaquis and forest land
wasteland (e.g., swamps, steep slopes, exposed bedrock)
installation locil37j
sacrosanct land

2. Land-Use Pattern

The existence and relative quantity of any given category

of land use found around a village and the proportions of land
devoted to tree, vine, or field crops or grazing are
determined by a manifold set of factors. Natural givens
(categories of terrain, climate, vegetation, and soil) are
crucial, though not decisive, and care must be exercised so as

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

not to conceive of landuse'igelasticaHy.(as;doAllan ;HJ'6'=

30-35 . and ., Wersch; 197 2:;J&O"'lS2)~});&serup'sviewi;of
fertility,.as?:a /variable,related;•. tl)popl.11ati()n Cidensity
agricultural .technology; (See.fabove~;.c~;2J;§B.n;·
extended ·toindudetheWhole'cbngeries ;ofen~itoh . ...•••
affecting the costs ofagrlcultural··production.Econorrdc
conditlons (transportationcosts,marketdemand); histork,ll
circumstances (relative security), and social factors (crop
preferences, inter-village exchange .: mechanisms) all
vital roles in determining land-use intensity and crop mix.
In any given situation the pattern into which these types of
land use would be constellated shows significant effectscif
the risk spreading and labor.optimizing objectives of
Highland .agriculture, At the .heart of the land-use pattern
lies the objective of optlmizing labor. Given the primitive
means of transport available in the early Iron Age Highlands,
the productivity of labor is greatly dependent upon the
distance between the village residence and the cultivated
fields (in general see Chisholm 1962: 21-35; Hall 1966: xx-xh
Mitchell 1971)• .The first impact of distance is felt in the
time required to travel to the fields. Because of the costs of
this travel time, labor is more productive closer to than
farther from the village. The distance-dependent variation of
labor productivity encourages the location of agricultural
pursuits of greatest intensity (that is, demanding the greatest
input of labor) at the least distance from the village. At
greater distances the labor costs of intensifying production
cannot be borne due to the already high costs of travel. A
second determinative impact of distance in the labor costs of
cultivation is felt in the transportation of the produce from
the fields to the village place of consumption. Crops which
because of their weight or bulk and lor perishability demand a
greater input of labor for transport, tend to be. located so
that these costs are minimized. Because of the limitations on
manuring, the transport of this material to the fields has no
significant effect on agricultural location in the Highlands
(see also Mitchell 1971: 360).
The effect of distance on the location of agricultural
production, originally noted and described by von Thiinen, has
been demonstrated for rural areas throughout the world
where travel to the fields is mostly pedestrian and the
transportation of produce relies upon animal power (Chisholm
1962:5&; Mitchell 1971: 365-369; Stryker> 1976: 347). It
represents the operation of agricultural systems by more or

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

less rational agents. However, whereas von Thiinen conceived

of thisrationaLbehavior as the endeavor to maximize income
(Chisholm <1962:4 3),for the farmers of the Highlands this
rationality must be understood in terms of the objective of
optimizing •. labor <which,of course, is the primary cost of
The distance-related considerations of transportability and
travel time to fields combine to fashion the pattern of land
use around the nucleated village into a series of concentric
bands of cultivation of given crops at given intensities.
Irregularity is the key word to describe the shape of these
bands, however, given the variegated topgraphy of the
Highlands (see also Mitchell 1971: 360). The location of
terraces, the most intensive type of land use widely possible
in the. Highlands, manifests this variegated pattern well. Ron
has found that the percentage of terraced areas surrounding a
village does decrease with increasing distance. Around the
village of Suba in the Judean Hills, for example, Ron
observed that "while 87% of the area of the inner ring which
radiates 200 rn from the center of the village were terraced
and cultivated, only 66.3% of the second ring (r2 = 500m)
and 31 % of the third ring(r3 = 1000m) were terraced and
cultivated" 0%6: 119-120). Particularly favorable areas are
terraced even beyond the usual limit.
How would crops be distributed on the terraces? Given
what is known about the labor and transportation demands of
the crop mix grown in the ancient Highlands and from the
study of the land-use patterns of contemporary communities
practicing traditional agriculture in the Mediterranean
region, it is likely that terraced areas supporting vegetable
gardens would occupy the closest band. This would permit
frequent visits for cultivation, harvest, and perhaps manuring
and jar-irrigation. Vineyards would also be found in this band
of greatest intensity, with the perishability and bulk of the
harvest as well as the need for surveillance and frequent
visits for tending encouraging a proximate location. The
assertion of Baly (1957: 100) and Borowski (1979: 157), based
partly on Judg 14.5 and 21.20-21, that vineyards were often
located at considerable distances from the village, can be
affirmed only for the era of commercialization of viticulture
in the Highlands during the monarchy. Isolated tree plots
would also appear in this band - fig, almond, olive - if only
''to give shade and an atmosphere of coolness" as has been
suggested (Beaumont, Blake, and Wagstaff 1976: 165). The
terraced areas surrounding the village would likely also

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

support: a particularly . . Mediterranean ·"crop;cQmbinatlon:'M.

intec,.,cultl,lre,tof.' cereals ,and ,olivetrees/3g/c.';t'i'f.rttbrig
factor:sencouraging>this,', combinationJ.,are;tl1eJlongtlag
beforenewl yplanted olive trees become productive~·the"
spacing required by the roote System ··bfthe;treesi'.ahd
compatibility of harvest times (White 1970a: 2&&;;$
1931: 391). Further out, terraces.might support' thebienniar
grain rotation and orchards of figs, olives,or other fruit trees~
Since the amount of terracing surrounding aHighlari~
village in the early Iron Age was restricted, thissameorcrer
of staple crops' would probably be found in the more' level
areas adjacent to the village site. Vegetable gardens >aha
vineyards would lie closest in, possibly followed by
interculture of fruit trees and grains, then the' grainfields
and finally the orcharas, Crops would naturally tend to land
best suited for their cultivation. Gardens and grain fields oh
the valley floors and gently sloping hillsides; vines and trees
occupying the less level areas.
On the fallow grain fields and among the orchard trees
grazing land would be provided. Within the radius of a day's
round trip, the non-cultivated and incompletely cleared land
would constitute the remainder of the zone of pasture land.
Within and beyond this border maquis and forest would supply
the village's need for firewood and building timber as well as
serve as a resource for hunting and trapping and gathering
vital wild footstuffs.
The greatest disruption in this general pattern emerges
around water sources which are often not located in the
greatest proximity to the village. (See aboveych, 6 §B.3). At
these extremely productive agricultural locations, irrigated
terrace systems requiring enormous inputs of labor permit
the most intensive cultivation. Such sites will skew the entire
pattern and are examples of particularly favorable areas
which Ron observed to be terraced even beyond the usual
border (Mitchell 1971: 363; Ron 1966: 119-120).
Despite topographical variegation, or rather, precisely in
line with it, the distance-determined pattern of land use
emerges specially clearly in the Highlands because of the
objective of risk spreading. Risk spreading through
cultivating a diversity of crops is coupled to risk spreading
through cultivating a diversity of topographical settings. The
great diversity of the agricultural environments created by a
variegated landscape overlaid by variations in rainfall, soil,
and vegetation elicits the attempt to exploit as wide a
variety of niches as possible (see above,ch. 3· §C). Thus the

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

~ypical land holding of a viHage household was likely to be

fragmented <- dispersed rthreoghout the . agricultural lands
.controlled by the viHage... The primary advantage of this
fragmentation of agricultural production lies in reducing the
chances ofa· complete crop loss to any single destructive
agent and in increasing the chances of a favorable match
with an unpredictably variable climate (see Grigg 1980: 22-23;
Galt 1980; Price 1981: 411). The primary negative
consequence of fragmented land holdings is the multiplication
of time lost traveling to scattered holdings /39/. It is
precisely the attempt to limit the effect of this disability
that promotes the zonation of crops according to intensity.
Thus the farming household mediates the conflict between
the objectives of risk spreading (encouraging fragmentation)
and the optimization of labor (promoting consolidation) in
this case by locating the more intensive agricultural
endeavors closer at hand and by substituting less intensive
field techniques and crops as distances from the village
increase. The ability of a Highlands' community to make such
distance-determined substitutions yet still plant a variety of
settings is the fortunate consequence of environmental
diversity. The conflict between these two objectives is
rendered less severe also by the fact that the smaller
gardens, vineyards, fields, and orchards that constitute a
fragmented holding are in fact more ideally suited to the
smaller quanta of human and animal labor that can be
mustered by the household at any given time. In addition, the
fragmentation of fields can also facilitate a community goal
of eqalitarian land distribution and thus promote village

3. Crop Mix and Yielding Characteristics

The ability to spread risk through planting a dispersed land

holding is enhanced by the surprisingly broad spectrum of
crops which were available to the Highlands farmers. Biblical
references and plant remains and epigraphic materials
uncovered archaeologically demonstrate the cultivation of a
substantial repertoire of crops distributed through garden,
field, and orchard /40/. The list of the "seven species" (Deut
8.8) has often been relied upon as an indication of the
importance of the particular crops chosen for listing. That
the cereals, wheat and barley, stand first on this list comes
as no surprise. The often noted superiority .of wheat as a
foodstuff makes this typically biblical pairing of wheat with

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

barieY'sttiking (inthe.fields:R.uth 2.23; Joel 1.11,

31.'tO[poeticparallelism}>asjfoodstuffs:25am 17.28 and
41.08)'..; The c'differinggrowth <characteristics of ·.thes
-cereals,: with wheat requiring 'better soils, 'more 'moisturec,Ii.'a.•••,
somewhat ··longer 'growingperiod'(and,thus, having alat~'·
harvest time), and being less tolerant of soil salinity t~~
barley, make them idealcompanions in Highland agricultUre
(Leonard and Martin 1963: 284-285, 483; Turkowski 1969: 110).
Their characteristics facilitate the optimizing of Iabor.rar
harvest time and spread risk by permitting the planting of'a.
greater variety of settings and increasing the chances of a.
match between crop moisture demands and precipitation
regime. The cultivation of other cereals, namely millet arid
sorghum,both summer crops, the former irrigated, the latter
non-irrigated, may also have helped to diversify the crop mix.
Neither sorghum nor millet, however, has been evidenced
archaeolcglcally in the,' early Iron Age Highlands (Zohary
1982: 77; Borowski: 1979:137).
The remaining items on the "seven-species" list are all
fruit trees: the vine, fig, promegranate, olive, and date (if
"debas", "honey," refers to the date palm). Among other
cultivated fruit-tree candidates including the sycamore,
carob, walnut, pistachio, apple, and black mulberry, it is the
almond, being both mentioned frequently in the Hebrew Bible
and unearthed as fruit and wood archaeologlcally (Borowski
1979: 188), that stands the best chance of also having been
grown in the Highland orchards. Two characteristics of these
trees' and their products deserve mention in this context.
First, their dietary contribution should not be
underestimated. Some of their fruits constitute the primary
source of sugar (fructose) both in the natural state and
processed as honey (date and carob) or molasses (grape) which
could be used as sweeteners (Negev 1972b: 112), especially
the fig which when dried contains over 50% sugar (Renfrew
1973: 132). The nutritious olive is a major source of fat - its
high-calorie oil is valued as a cooking medium but
contributed more importantly as a foodstuff (Boardman 1976:
192). The edibility of the ripe olive is a matter of dispute.
The sharp bitterness of the fresh fruit causes most to dismiss
the possibility of its being eaten (Borowski 1979: 179-180;
Forbes and Foxhall 1978: 37). Yet taste is much a matter of
culture, and there is indirect evidence for its consumption -
the discovery of whole (i.e. uncrushed) olive pits in certain
suggestive contexts (Boardman 1976: 192). Pickling to remove
the bitterness,however, is an extremely simple process

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

(Forbes and FoxhaH . 1978:37-38) for which the active

ingredient-rock· salt.,was abundantly supplied adjacent to
the.Highlands around> the .:Dead Sea. The process probably
needed no,"introduetion"'inHelleniStic or . Roman •times as
Borowski asserts.'(1919:179..180). Apart from all else, the
chief value of the nutritional contribution of these tree crops
consists in the fact that> it can be stored. Grapes, figs, and
dates are easily dried and pressed into cakes, the high sugar
content acting as a preservative, and olives can be pressed
for oil or pickled and stored for up to two years (Forbes and
Foxhall 1978: 37). It is difficult to overestimate the
importance of such storable foods in the uncertain
agricultural and historical environment of the early Iron Age
Conspicuous by their absence from the list in Deut 8.8 are
the vegetables, herbaceous edible plants apparently held in
low esteem by the author of this description of the land /41/.
This neglect should in no way be taken as indicative of the
unimportance of these garden and field crops in the
subsistence base of the ancient Highlanders. While the
vegetable garden was, as Zohary puts it, "woefully lacking in
variety" without tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, beans,
peppers, and other familiar plants, it contained vital food
stuffs 0982: 73). These included: pulses (lentils, broad beans,
chick-peas, and probably common garden peas); bulb
vegetables (onions, leeks, and garllc); gourds (watermelon and
musk melon); and a handful of condiments (Zohary 1982: 73).
Broad beans, lentils, chick-peas, common peas, watermelons,
and the condiment black cumin have all been documented
archaeologically in Iron Age contexts (Borowski 1979:
129-145, 207-212). It may be that some of these vegetables
(particularly the leguminous pulses) were grown as field
crops, perhaps as part of the cereal rotation. Yet the value of
intensively cultivating - through manuring and jar-irrigation -
nearby gardens in order to produce good and more consistent
yields would not have been lost on the ancient Highlanders.
The dietary contributions of these vegetables vary, of course.
The pulses have about the same nutrient value as cereals,
with a slightly higher protein content. Others are often good
sources of some vitamins and minerals as well as providing
bulk for smooth intestinal function. The diet of the Highlands
was no doubt further supplemented by gathering wild plants
(see above, ch, 5 §B; Zohary 1982: 95).
Despite risk spreading through a mix of garden, field, and
tree crops, subsistence security was nonetheless fragile. A

goocf .;.i.ncf!<:;~t9('i~(~.th!~;pr~.cariousness .lies.lnthenotoriollS
Vj;l riab~~;MI~lcf~'¥Y!'.,lll.Qlf;lll ,,Qf;l~· •.H ighlands'.• crops•.·.• experie
(e"c~ptipnt<lllQs~gr9.wll;oQ ·th~.1ifl)i~ecf al1)ountof,irrig
land a r~ fre~rirofl) yield;flu<:;tuatlo 0). precise . dataonyield~;
achieved. in. the ancient Highlands would be a boonX;tQ·'
reconstructing.the~griculturaleconomy. Such data·are,
non-existentj-unfortunately, Archaeology hasIn fact beguhtQ
recover rernains .of agricultural plants and to investigate
vestiges of facilities and fields, but yields are one aspect of
agricultural systems which leave no traces in the soiL(see
Allan 1972: 123). No economic records - ostraca, inscriptions
- illuminate. the yielding characteristics of early Iron Age
crops or cultivation techniques. Estimates for grain yields in
various locations in the ancient Mediterranean world have
been based on a. variety of sources, ancient and
contemporary. Helchelheim,'. for example, relies upon the
talmudic report (b. Ketub, l12a) of a five-fold grain yleld.In
ancient Palestine (193&: 12&-129). Varro reports a grain yield
of approximately ten- to fifteen-fold in Italy (De Re Rustica
I:44:l).;lv!ostinteresting are the calculations· made by
Mayerson based .on the 7th century C.E. economic papyri
recovered at the Negeb site of Nessana, "We can safely say,'!
he wrrtes, " that the yield of wheat at Nessana during the
ninth indiction in the seventh century A.D. was 7-fold; of
barley, &-fold and more." Mayerson regards these yields as
representative of a satisfactory-to-good year and suggests
that yields in the best years might go as high as 10- or
20-fold (1960: 18-19).
The absolute productivity of sown cereals is, of course, not
as important to the sustenance of a community as the yield
per. unit land which also includes the factor of the rate at
which seed is sown. In his calculations of the subsistence
potential of the environs of Gezer, Webley relies upon the
area's contemporary traditional agriculture which produces
long-term yields of barley of 420 kg/hectare on rendzina soil
and 705 kg/hectare on Mediterranean brown forest soil (I 972:
175). The lowest average present-day yields on the marginal
grass lands of Messenia are reported as 900 kg/hectare of
wheat and 750 kg/hectare of barley (Wersch 1972: 1&5).
The estimation of yields is a necessary component of any
attempt to achieve quantitative indicators of the economy of
the andentHighlands. "Average yields" are deceptive,
however, and obscure the fact that harvest sizes suffer
tremendous variability in this environment. Antoun provides
an observed record of grain production in traditional

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

agriculture ..in the Transjordanthat shows well these wide

inter..annualfluctuations.;c'lProduction·· ina .. goodyear," he
~Tites,"may be seven times that ota bad one" (1972: 8) /42/.
Werschobserves the» same precipitous fluctuations for
Messenia and suggests that a range of yields provides a more
meaningful perspective on the subsistence struggles of
Mediterranean agriculture than do average yields (1972: 179).
Given the dependency of yields on the precipitation regime,
one might expect the range of yields to follow also the
normal distribution curve. This curve may well hold toward
the maximum side, but the existence of numerous deleterious
and destructive agents (uneven distribution of rainfall, pests,
plant disease, other natural as well as historical disasters)
clearly acts to flatten and probably displace the curve toward
the minimum side (right skew).
The existence of some such range of yields is the best
indicator of the impetus to risk spreading and also risk
reduction that would have been felt by the farming
communities of the ancient Highlands (White 197Gb: 112). The
variability forces upon the Highlander another coping
strategy: the need to adjust production to compensate for the
variability. Allan labels it "reasonable - if not axiomatic"
that subsistence cultivators would ''tend to cultivate an area
large enough to ensure the food supply in a season of poor
yields." They attempt to produce, in other words, "a 'normal
surplus' of food in the average year" (1965: 38). This
important concept helps further to define the pressures on
labor supply which the variable environment often exerts. It
serves as well to communicate something of the dynamic of
land use. In one probable scenario, the need to plant a
relatively larger amount of land in an uncertain environment
pushes the zones of cultivation out further from the village
where the least costly (smallest labor demand) intensities of
production are pursued. These bring a low-eost return in the
average or good years - helping to produce the normal surplus
- and a least costly failure in the bad. The expansion and
contraction of this zone of cultivation would be a natural
part of short-term fluctuations in climate, historical
circumstances, and, above all, labor supply.

4. Agricultural and Livestock Husbandry

The presence of the category "grazing land" on the above

list of land-use types raises the question of the part played by
livestock husbandry in the agricultural communities of the

-Hopkins - TneHighlands of Canaan

anclent Highland~.As.Fredrtk ,Barthnotes"in',rnostsocie

the. regimes ofagriculturean<tpastoraHsmareoot lforpan'
as "specialized socioeconornic;activities,f'A:>utare''pursue
mul ti-Pljrposehouseholds,often 'involved 'in theactivities'".
several 'regimes ,simultaneously"r(197 3:\t4; 'see also Adams;',e:
198h13). Evidence for the place of livestock husbandry"rin'
the, subslsrenceeecceorrtyi'ef. the Highlands has beenadduce<f'
above in connection with the description of the domestlc'
dwelling. The importance of livestock in the overall
agricultural picture. has been noted in the description of the
practice of manuring.' Many other points of vital intersect';"
ion can be described. However, despite the long-standing
awareness that stock-breeding is an "indespensible com;';
plement of agriculture," as Barrois put it decades ago,no
clear view of the particular form which this complementarity
assumed has emerged (1939, 1: 366). By ,"form" here we have
in mind' the various' approaches to assuring a regular food
supply for flocks and herds in a seasonal climate, that is, the'
means of providing fodder when pastures become inadequate
or the type of migration to seasonally green pastures. Of, the
migratory types, the range of adaptations where livestock are
not the primary means of sustaining their owners' stretches
from transhumance which entails migration between seasonal
pastures on the part of a segment of a permanently settled
agricultural community, to mixed grazing and farming which
involve more localized "migrations" to areas adjacent to the
zones of cultivation (Price 1981: 400; Krader 1968). Much
attention has been focused on pastoralism among peoples who
are primarily dependent upon their animals - the nomadic
pastoralists - especially with an eye to distinguishing Israel's
ancestors from among the multitudinous manifestations of
this mode of production (see Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson
1980; Dever 1977; Gottwald 1974). Much of this knowledge
illuminates less specialized and less 'independent pastoral
pursuits, but it is of little help in arriving at a precise
definition of the nature of the pastoral-agricultural mix in
the communities of the, ancient Highlands. Similarly, the
relative importance of animal husbandry to subsistence in the
Highlands has so far escaped precise determination. The fact
of the importance cannot be gain-said. The Hebrew Bible's
rich, fairly specific, and frequently" occurring vocabulary
associated with livestock provides ample testimony to this
/43/. Archaeological investigations committed to the
recovery of faunal remains at Hesban have underlined the
importance of stock-breeding, especially that' of sheep and

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

goats, during all periods of occupation since the settlement

of the site .In Jron F(La Bianca 1978: 229). The adoption of
similar research •strategies and methods would vno doubt
produce identical results in excavations of Highlands
settlements. Yet the importance of herding remains to be
fixed and one cannot be certain of exactly how prominent it
The indispensability of livestock husbandry in the economy
of Highlands' communities is a function of the subsistence
advantage offered by the simultaneous pursuit of agriculture
and pastoralism. The dietary contributions of herd animals
can be significant. Milk is the most important product (Deut
32.14), and it is transformed into a variety of consumables
including curds (hem'a - 2 Sam 17.29) and storable cheese (I
Sam 17.18) (Bates 1973: 155). Animals were also used directly
for food (l Sam 14.32) though such consumption would
certainly not have been incautious since the beasts were
themselves a form of capital. Contributions to home industry
are also derived from the herds. This is particularly evident
in the case of sheep's wool (serner) which was spun into cloth
and used for garments (Deut 22.11) beginning in the Bronze
Age (Paul and Dever 1973: 215).
Within the context of agricultural land use, herding
provides a way to make use of marginal land too poor or
distant to be cropped and fallow land resting from
agricultural production, thus increasing the productivity of
land resources. The augmentation of productivity is gained at
little cost to the agricultural work force since shepherding is
generally carried out by otherwise unproductive non-adult
and geriatric labor (Adams 1972: 6; Freeman 1970: 178). The
grazing of animals on fallow land, orchard land, and land
freshly harvested is particularly important in another way,
already mentioned, since the manure deposited by the
animals helped to maintain the fertility of the fields.
Dietary and household craft considerations, augmentation
of land and labor productivity, and help in sustaining yields of
field and tree crops all serve to indicate the central
importance of animal husbandry in the Highlands' agricultural
economy. The indispensability of stock-breeding, however,
derives from its contribution to the spreading of risk through
diversifying subsistence means. Livestock are subject to a
different set of environmental hazards than crops - different
pests, different susceptibility to meteorological disasters,
different diseases which means that a combined
pastoral-agricultural subsistence base is more able to

Hopkins - The Highlahdsof Canaan

'withstand any .• single .environment~lattack.'. Though he.~~i~

shares/agriculture's· dependency '<upon.. the .• ·variable··pr~:!
cipitation, ·it is a imobileresourceand can,asgrainfi:!~~
and olive trees cannot; adjust its !ocation to match chang~
patterns of pasture availability. In some historical contexfS
this .mobility adds another ··'dimension to the adaptive
advantage offered by stockbreeding: the ability to evade the
reach of political power and' tax demands (Adams 1972: 3;
Gottwald 1979b: 1+50). Above all, herding provides what can
be termed a "food bank on the hoof" that permits the storing
of agricultural surpluses' in good years which can" be
withdrawn from the bank in years when crops fail (Flannery
1969:87). Barth has emphasized the ''buoyancy'' of the
pastoral sector of mixed economies and the possibility of
rapid growth that attends pastoral pursuits (1973: 13, 15).
This potential for great yearly increases, reported in One
setting to be as much as 1+0 percent for sheep (Swidler 1973:
26), facilitates the operation of this banking system without
recourse to social or economic institutions of any kind. The
natural increase can be sustained by permitting sheep and
goats to graze on growing grain fields during good years, with
surpluses used as fodder during the dry season (Flannery 1969:
87). Agricultural surpluses may also be used to acquire
animals through purchase or exchange up to the limits of the
community's labor and land resources. In years of scarcity
these surpluses may be withdrawn directly as food or through
exchange. By means of this "banking" mechanism, herding
"repeatedly served as the indispensable source of ecological
flexibility and resilience in the aftermath of natural or
socially induced disasters" (Adams 19&1: 11).
The dynamics of the simultaneous pursuit of animal
husbandry and agriculture in the same community require
further exploration, especially as regards how successfully
integration can be accomplished. In an agricultural system
where fodder production was probably not achieved on any
great scale (see above, ch, 8 §B.I), there are obvious limits to
the community's involvement in pastoralism beyond which the
integration of the two modes of production fractures and
specialist stockbreeders take to distant pastures. The obvious
limitations are labor and the availability of pastures, with the
latter setting the most pressing constraint (Swidler 1973: 27).
Since the availability of pastures is seasonal, the upward
limit to the number of animals that can be sustained is set by
the carrying capacity of pasture lands during the desiccating
dry season (see Bates 1973: 223). The radius of potential

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &- Labor Optimization

grazing land extends out to the distance that can be covered

in .a daily round .trip to pastures and back to where the
animals are corraled at night. The radius diminishes con-
siderably when the herds are in milk since they must be
returned to the village homes every night for milking (Swidler
1973: 26). The size of the herds that could be sustained within
these boundaries h the ancient Highlands is not presently
known, though, as indicated above, the number is bound to be
a fluctuating one depending upon the situation and needs of
individual villages. As a maximum sustainable level, \V ebley
makes a calculation using a figure based on contemporary
Bedouin activity of one goat or sheep per four hectares of
land in the Gezer catchment, but it is impossible to gauge the
accuracy of this estimate (1972: 177-178). Herd size is only
referred to in the Hebrew Bible when the intention is to
emphasize the great wealth of certain persons (Nabal: 1 Sam
25.2; Job: Job 1.3). Reports of herd sizes from the ethno-
graphic present are not readily available.
The paleosteological work of LaBianca at Hesban has
endeavored to ascertain the relative importance of crop and
livestock production throughout the occuptional history of
this site,. His model assumes that land-use patterns involving
a mix of grazing land and fields occupy the center of a
continuum at whose opposite ends are the range-lands
entirely given over to stockbreeding and the crop lands or the
exclusively farming communities (19790: 5-7). There is
long-term oscillation over time along this and other
correlated continuurns (e.g., settlement pattern, land-eontrol
pattern). Of these the most readily measurable continuum is
that of diet, especially as regards the age of animals eaten,
with greater percentages of young animal meat expected in
the diet as the dependency on stockbreeding grows. With the
age of the consumed animals read from bones uncovered in
excavated strata, LaBianca found higher percentages of older
animals being eaten in Iron II as opposed to Iron I, indicating
a more balanced mix of agriculture and animal husbandry in
the overall economy of the earlier period. Note that this is
only a relative measure - LaBianca himself assumes the
continuous existence of mixed grazing and farming in the
Hesban region throughout the Iron Age (l979a: 7-9). The
greater agricultural feasibility of the Highlands of Canaan
(significantly greater annual precipitation means) suggests
that here farming might occupy a slightly greater weight
than in the lransjordan. But the complementarity exists
nonetheless. The question which remains unanswered is how

Hopkins> The) Highlands of Canaan

major the t:()le th,a~ pastorCllpursui,sflctually .playedin"h

Iron{\ge.~,;~nlt,•... 'u Jo/0, ...,£iT/ •.••..•. .••••.•.••..~ • •.• •..• ...• •. •• .•••..•• ·.·(lfZ~<
'.. Overctime,.whenth.e integration of.· animal husba.ndry
agriculture.would breakdown and the edge in thecompetiti . •. .•. i
for. resources (fields versu.~pasturelands) would shifttO\Vfli~
the farming sector,the.tnost likely pathway of divorce inth~
ancient Highlands was some form of transhurnance,
Ecological conditions permitting the movement of flocks anci
herds accompanied by some segment of a community Of
specialist shepherds to seasonal pastures at some remove
from the home settlement appear. to exist within the
Highlands and adjacent areas (so, too, Gottwald 1979b: 446).
In the Judean and Sarnarian Highlands seasonal migration may
have been directed along wadi beds toward the Jordan valley,
as has been reported for 19th century Bedouin inhabitants o~
the Transjordan(La Bianca. 1978: 12), or perhaps westward
toward the marshes of the coastal plain. Galilean Highlanders
may have .found pasture in the many basins which remain
verdant long into the dry season because of the collected
winter rains or the marshes of the Upper Jordan Valley or
migrated to Highland pastures in the Bashan or on the slopes
of Mt Hermon which stay snow-covered until mid-summer.
The transhumants would .Iollow the rains home and arrive in
time to permit the workforce committed to stockbreeding to
make a contribution to plowing and planting. Ecological
possibility notwithstanding, such migrational patterns would
only be possible in certain political environments. Gottwald
has argued that such "summer upland transhumance ••• tended
to .be quickly appropriated by centrally controlled animal
husbandry in Canaan" (l979b: 448; see Amos 4.1 and I Chr
27.29-31 for suggestive references). At this state of our
knowledge it is impossible to know the extent to which
ancient Highland communities might have been engaged . in
transhumance, Given the shape of the settlement pattern and
the population landscape, it is unlikely that competition
between animal husbandry and agriculture became extreme
and very many Highlands' villages spawned transhumant
pastoralist groups.

5. Land-Use Pattern: Summary

Despite only indirect evidence a sketch of the pattern of

land use surrounding villages of the early Iron Age Highlands
of Canaan can be made and the ways in which this pattern is

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading « Labor Optimization
moulded by the objectives of risk spreading and labor op-
timizing can, be displayed••'The zonation of crops is a .response
to the desire to make the most of available labor, but at the
same time it .suits the spreading of risk due to the variegation
of the environment. which offers aplentitude of distinct
farming niches. The cultivation of a fairly broad spectrum of
garden, field, and orchard crops enhances the ability to
spread risk. Besides significant dietary contributions, high on
the list of the benefits of some crops - the tree crops in
particular - is their storability. The importance of this char-
acteristic is made prominent in the light of the highly vari-
able yields of all of Highland agriculture. This circumstance
also pushes farming communities to expand production
beyond the needs of a single year - placing an even greater
burden upon a limited labor resource.
Both the Hebrew Bible's terminology for grazing land and
livestock and the variability of yields point to a prominent
place for pastoral pursuits in Highlands subsistence. Exactly
how prominent remains an important unanswered question.
The indispensability of pastoralism lies in its contribution to
risk spreading - usually at little cost to the agricultural
workforce. The complementarity of agriculture and pastoral-
ism in the demographically unstable and environmentally
variegated and variable Highlands, the form and dynamics of
their relations, and their relative importance through time all
demand further exploration. The intersection between pastor-
alism and agriculture in the context of the transformation of
the settlement map of the early Iron Age Highlands - the
growth of settlement sites and population - may indeed hold a
key to answering the question of how subsistence challenges
played a part in the emergence of Israel.

D. Social Structure and Institutions

Up to this point the focus of this discussion of agriculture

in the ancient Highlands has fluctuated between the village
or community and the individual cultivating family as the
centerpiece of the agricultural system. It remains to consider
a bit more deliberately the relations between the smaller and
larger social units that constituted early Israel from the
standpoint of how these relations are influenced by the
objectives of risk spreading and the optimization of labor.
Needless to say, the bounds of the present work and the
history of research into the social structure of Israel make a
full treatment impossible. It is also the case that the picture

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

ef-sociaj structlJring;Pl\"esented}h~re;wiUbe
social,scientificinquiryi~toancient Israe.L:;m;;; ;y,; iii'
. Recent; ·anthropologiCa.f';.;;~ork;;;on. ,xruralu;societies
highlightedtheimpcll"tance;:of;.the·house.hold;as; thein:
functional . e lement.(seeBarleU·.• ·.l980:.553..;56J).Orlove;:a:n'tl
Custred ;have •focused on the ;household,;as the unitl~!;<
economic activity ..and ,the.locusofdecision making ': with
regard to·· production,consumption, and exchange in the
peasant societies of the Andes (1980: 37). Sahlins makes-mucl;
the same point about tribal economics which he' labels Hthe
familial mode of production."uProduction is a dornestic
function," he writes.!'.The.decisions are taken with a view to
domestic . • needs; production cis .geared to.vfarnil ial require-
ments" (1968: 75). Similarly, Brush. notes', that it is "not the
village as a unit, but rather the individual household that is
the actual user ofresources and.producer of-subsistencez.Arid
in most traditional economies,the 'household is the signif-
icant unit of both production and consumption" (1977: 69).
There ., can be little.: doubt that these are appropriate
descriptions of the functioning of the smallest social unit in
early Israel, the !'bet Jab":.(seeAndersen 1969; de Geus 1976:
133-136; Gottwald 1974b: 285-292). The "bih Jab" wasvan
"extended family," composed of two or more nudearfamilies
united by consanguinousties(Murdock ·'1949: 23). Gottwald
defines it as the "functional living unit gathered around a
family head at any given moment and it was, in a narrower
and more definable sense, the lineage - i.e., all the biological
descendants of a known common ancestor." He suggests as
well that this lineage may extend through five generations
(I979b: 285-287). Four generations are all that appear at the
same time in biblical accounts, however (in Josh 7 Achan is a
member of thethirdgef\eration of "b~t Zi:ldi ,revs. 18], but the
text also mentions Achan's children [vs, 24]. Only three
generations ever take active roles in narratives. Gideon's
story is instructive. Gideon,': the "least" in his "bet 'ab," is
obviously a mature and able adult, a leader of military
actions (Jud 7) and fuU participant in agricultural work (6.1 O.
Yet the inhabitants of the town whose cultic site Gideon
destroys appeal to Joashhis father as the family head and
bearer of authority over his son (vs, 30). Gideon himself is
accompanied into battle by his own first-born, Jether, who is
"still a youth" (8.20).
The features of Gideon's portrait (as well as those in the
case of Saul in 1 Sam 9.1-4, 1.1.5) provide a clear indication

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading & Labor Optimization

of the:funCtional and residential character of the "bet Jab": it

£l~rt~r~JIY''f~rmeda'lmitof.production· 'and habitation" •(de
Ge'usJ9,76i.1~5).Amaterial 'reflectIon of the residential
chCiractercanbe discerned In. the arrangement of domestic
strustures at ., Iron I sites such as tAi and Raddana. The site
plans of these villages show the grouping of houses in clusters
around a shared courtyard, such as would suggest the banding
of nuclear into extended families (Callaway 1977: 92; Harmon
1981: 13; Gottwald [1979b: 291] notes Judg 17-18). Gideon's
agricultural labors take place in the context of his "bet 'ab,"
as far as can be determined, He is pictured threshing wheat
in the wine press near the oak that belongs to his father.
Saul, t?o,goes at his father's direction to search for the lost
asses of Kish (I Sam 9.3). From all accounts, access to land,
the baslc.? means of subsistence, was lodged in the first
instance with the "bet 'ab" (Gen 31.14-16; Nurn 27.14; 1 Kgs
The size of the labor force which might be called upon for
the provisioning of the "bet 'ab" can only be estimated since
no full display of its members is preserved in the hebrew
Bible. If constituted by five generations, Gottwald suggests ~/ctC''V
that a "thriving 'beth-Jav' might easily comprise from fifty to I
one hundred persons" (1979b: 285). This estimate appears
quite high, more ideal than typical, however, and it
incorporates no explicit consideration of fertility and
mortality rates, especially infant and child mortality rates.
An estimate based on dwelling units is also possible. If house k~ \.<
clusters at Raddana, for example, represent extended ell< Y1
families, then each of these would be inhabited by 3-4 f<l ~f­
constituent nuclear families (Harmon 1981: 13). Depending
upon the number accepted as the average size of the nuclear
family, the ''bet 'ab" would encompass 12-16 or 18-24
individuals (Stager forthcoming; McClellan 1977: 14). Stager
posits a range of 10-30 persons, though he labels the
achievement of this range "uncommon" (forthcoming; see also
A. Mazar 1981: 15).
As the basic producing and consuming unit in ancient
Highland agriculture, it is possible to speak of the "bet Jab1' as
self-sufficient, providing for its own needs (Gottwald 1979b:
292). Even granting the lower scale of extended family size,
those families with access to land would probably have
sufficient labor to carry out the basic agricultural operations
and provide for their subsistence. However, such autonomy as
may be apparent ideally was never complete (Sahlins 1968:
77). Demographic factors and historical vicissitudes combine

Hopkins. - The Highlands of Canaan

to .render .thei''b~t}~bl',\less.tt1anasta~le,;unit.Qne)()bviou~
means JostaQilit}'sothe;;la<:;/)ie¥emel"lt\(),flar&ebovseh()19f§iA.~Ji;
is ; esp~ially) ;lIOreliable.:,rew;families;readJ" ideaL:size:high .
morta!itycrates, nip""t:hem,,ln;the\.btKi.,o[he. ;;highmonalitj';
experienced In the ancient W'9rld}Jmakes the joint survival'of .
siblings of three or more. generations indlrectJine otdesce!"lt
for one sex {or<other survivalcontingenciesneeded.to
elaborate cornplexxhcusehojd .• structures) relatively .rare
events" (Burch 1972: 92 t quoted by . Stager,. forthcoming).
Angel's .work on ,pOPlllation .) In' itheancient.eastern ) Med::;
Iterranean ssupplies. some vital demographic statistics Which
buttress this assessment. His work involves the exam...
ination of the PUbic bonesofJemale human skeletons in order,
to determine fecundity and of cernetery.populatlons in order
to estimate the. percentage of .infant and child deaths. Based
upon data from Greece, Angelfinds4.J.birthst but only 1.9
survivors per female in the early Iron Age (1972: 94-95, 97).
These rates win support for the belief that few extended
families reached the size that might have lent them a degree
of stability. This instability.in household size would mean
that periodically an extended .family would lose its breadth
and become, de facto, a nuclear family, returned once again
to the beginning of its domestic cycle and most likely unable
to supply its own labor needs. Even the labor supply of a
good-sized "bet 'ab" could be hamstrung by numerous vi-
cissitudes: injury, disease,; the loss of members to early
death. In the words of Marshall Sahlins, "the small domestic
labor force ••• is often sorely beset" (1968: 77). It will not be
infrequent that certain households experience a shortage
while others have a surplus of labor relative to the demands
of agricultural work which tend to remain more level than
actual subsistence needs (Brush 1977: 104).
Along with the waxing and waning of household size and
therefore viability vis-a-vis labor supply, other charac-
teristics of agricultural. systems in the Highlands limit the
autonomy of individual extended families and propel them
into larger associations. The seasonal fluctuations of labor
demand stand out most prominently in this respect.
Reciprocal labor exchanges probably helped to soften the
impact of seasonal labor shortages within households, es-
pecially at the time of the intensive grape harvest and the
cereal harvest, .when collective labor COUld. also take
advantage of variable. ripening times. The joint use of
communally constructed threshing floors and. grape and ol-
ive processing facilities represents an extension of this

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading (\( Labor Optimization

cooperation. ; (See - above, §B.2,3). The leasing of draft

ani~s,JorWbich stipulations in the Book of the Covenant
prpvideearlyevidence (Exod22.14-15), represents a form of
non-reciprocal-.- exchange involving some kind of payment
whi91might have served to provide the traction needs of
"betlanot" without larger livestock.
Some operations of the agricultural system appear to
demand larger labor groups than could ordinarily be provided
by the "bthJab." The constructiorr'of terrace systems not only
entails a huge expenditure of human energy, but according to
their systemic requirements, coherent planning and direction.
(See above, ch, 7 §B). Since the transformation of the
hillsides by the building of terrace systems has no small
impact on the valley floor, notably by absorbing run-off that
would otherwise water and enrich its fielos, it also
presupposes the involvement of some community of interest.
The same would hold true for drainage projects, though these
are not greatly in evidence in the early Iron Age Highlands
(see Thompson 1979: 28). The situation in both these cases is
not dissimilar to, though less significant than, the
upstream-downstream competition for water that marks
irrigation culture. Adams contends that "the nuclear family is
not a viable defensive, productive, and managerial unit" in
this situation (I972: 4). Other projects which perhaps do not
necessitate, but because of their arduous demands, elicit
communal involvement, are bringing new land into cul-
tivation, the preparation of fallow land (Turkowski 1969: 23),
and building communal agricultural facilities as well as
non-agricultural projects of direct benefit to the community
(well digging, defensive works).
The smooth operation of the Highland agricultural systems
entails the cooperation of individual households in a number
of areas and further limits their autonomy. The integration of
agricultural and pastoral components can be a serious
problem. The grazing of animals in and around cropped fields
easily results in conflict and invites planning that transcends
the household level. Antoun notes the jeopardy into which the
household following an eccentric rotational pattern placed its
crops when the village lands were opened to stock grazing
after the general harvest (1972: 14). There are instances in
the ethnographic record where such regularization of
agricultural calendar is absolutely essential for ecological
reasons. Nukunya, for example, discusses an example of
village regulation of the times of planting necessitated by the
presence of an insect that can spread from mature crops to

Hopkins- The Highlancfs of Canaan

younger'enes(f97.5:207).Whilethe: liighlandsdo ootappe

tobeYsQ !exa<:;ting,c,'tipula ~ion~,regittdingl'eSPOrlsibili
cOmpensation". tor !~'agrieultur:~ltr~spass;'!fouodint~e'Bo
conflicts" whiCh>: arise·!, from" if diversity ' ! of' agricult
practices being carried jndoseproxirnity~ From
re'gionsof Africa and' Asia there' is evidence for .. itl~~~'
herding in which ani mals-owned by anurnberof
are pooled and the collective herd led to grazing grounds
(Winrocklnternational .:,: Livestock Research and Training:
Center 197k 17). Whether Exod 22.10-13 has this practice as
its basis can only be guessed.
The above-mentioned tendencies of' Highlands agricultural
systems all fall ,.' under the" general rubric of labbr'
optirnlzatjorw's.and. •. it ,cannot .be doubted that this vital
objective contributed to' the formation of supra-household
sodalities in early Israel; No less crucial and no doUbt:'a
primary inducement to reciprocal relations between
households are the features of the environment that enforce
the objective of riskspreaaing. Despite strategies by which
households attempt to cope with variable yields (such as the
production of a "normal" surplus),socialrelations provided
the best insurance against subsistence failure in the
individual extended family. f..lutualaid may be looked upon as
an episodic feature of social relations - necessary only in the
case of emergencies - but the frequency and magnitude of
variations in the annual harvest suggest that dealing with
these shortfalls would be a regular function of social units
larger than the "bet Jab." This is particularly clear as regards
the functioning of the "food bank on the hoof." Exchange
between families would constitute the primary means for this
banking mechanism.
The sodality which carried ouithese necessary functions'
and expressed the interdependence of households in the'
ancient Highlands was the 'miSpa/:la.' The importance for
ancient Israel of this form of social organization en":
compassing the "bet Jab" is nowhere doubted (de Geus 1976:
137). Avoiding the technical term clan, Gottwald labels the
"mgpa\:la" a "protective association of families" and suggests
that its social functions were twofold: "to protect the
socio-economic integrity of 'beth-av6th' threatened with
dimunition or extinction and to organize troops- for the tribal
leVY~"Putting aside the military role of the "miSpal)a,~
Gottwald concelves.oof the function of the protective
assocletion--es "emergency» means to restore the normal

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &: Labor Optimization

autonomous basis of a member family." The "mi~paDa" has

"reserve power"rather . than "positive power" (I979b: 267,
315... 31 6).. Given what has been posited above about the in-
complete.autonomy of the. "bet'ab,"this view is in need of
some adjustment with respect to the regular function of the
"miSpaba" as. the social context for.: the agricultural life of
the. ''bet 'ab." The coincidence of "miSpal)a" and village or
village sub-section (de Geus 1976: 138; Gottwald 1979b: 316)
and the voluntarily endogamic nature of this unit (de Geus
1976: 141) are both naturally conditions for episodic
emergency aid as well as regular cooperation. But the solid
linkages established in this pattern are more suggestive of
the latter than merely the former. The meager hints
preserved in the Hebrew Bible with respect to the functioning
of the "mgpai)a" as a cultic community (I Sam 9.12; 1 Sam
20.6, 29), one that holds annual feasts (de Geus 1976:143),
further cement the picture of the "mgpa!:la" as a collective
formed by "bet 'abot" who would regularly call upon it for
cooperation in agricultural tasks and the sharing of resources
in times of need. The festivals may well have had some
census function, as Frick has suggested (I979: 248), and have
provided a context for the negotiation of reciprocal
labor-sharing arrangements. Moreover, such festivals and the
sacrificial feasts that accompanied them provided the
periodic context for informal exchange, exchange such as
required by the operation of the "food bank on the hoof,"
\ly hile marriage customs in ancient Israel are anything but
clear (see de Vaux 1961: 33-34), such customs as are
evidenced - the "mohar," the wedding feast (Judg 14.12) -
doubtless were avenues for the flow of economically vital
goods back and forth within the endogamic "miSpai)a." The
"mg pai)a" was indeed called upon to provide emergency aid,
but provided the context for regular reciprocities as well.
A specific piece of evidence for this regular functioning of
the "miSpal)a" with respect to subsistence needs may be found
in the old suggestion. recently elaborated and presented
freshly by Dybdahl, that land tenure in ancient Israel was
communal. The evidence for this supposition derives from
ethnographic analogy - particularly the wide-spread form of
communal land tenure in the Near East known as "mesha'a"
tenure - and an analysis of the descriptions of land division
and inheritance customs and their associated terminology
preserved in the Hebrew Bible. Among the characteristics of
the communal system of land tenure for which Dybdahl finds
evidence stands the holding of land in the larger social group

Hppkins- Ihe.Highlands otCanaen

(t~~I.;)2",,)3}.In.the cas~ot.an<:ientJsI"~¢lit..~~.tJ"I~!'rniSp
tJ"I9l~p~ar.~.to. p~~el>cl~iq,q()ldiflggr.~p+oft<;~ain.

CCi.t\:gori~s.·'j~f:lapd••·. pn~ ,t~n<:tioll .£o.f.•.•. thefj'1
respect '.' .is. .dearly:evidencedin ;;ithei;l1e.~re\\(·il,eiJ;l
from. within'~mBpaoa'Lboundaries (Ruth4.:3"f, N um27.4
On the other hand, there is .noreferencetoither~g
process of distributing land to the families that constrt
the "miSpal)a." The numerous accounts of. the process nY
traditional Near Eastern villages painta< picture of.i,~
preliminary division of land according to quality andthen'j~
parcelling out of segments in accordance with the numberot
eligible . "bet 'abOt" .within the "miSpaba" (see also Ada~
1972: 4). While the evidence for the existence of a commu~~
land-tenure system in pre-monarchical Israel is by no meOJ)~
conclusive, there is sufficient evidence to lendfuI"th~~
credence to the view of the "miSpal)a" as a vital functioning.
sodality in constituting as well as in protecting the life of the
ancient Israelite "bet 'ab."
Just as one is forced to qualify .the autonomy of the"b~~
'ab" and give considerable import to the j encompassing
"miSpal)a" in achieving the agricultural objectives ofrisIs
spreading and labor optimization, so, too, the "mgpal)a" is nQ
social isolate, and the boundaries of its circumference-are
not impenetrable. Beyond the orbit of this association,
however, when one enters the realm of the third level of
Israelite social organization, the "sebet ," the concreteness
and tangibility of social relations weakens. According tod\:
Geus' definition, the Israelite tribes were "regional alliance~'l
of. "essentially independent" "mi§pal)ot" which retained' the
real soclal. power (1976: 156). Such an understanding ofth(j
tribe as the least stable and substantial of the basicIsraelite
social forms .represents a great divergence from
preponderant view of previous decades. in. which aocarent
"weakness" of the tribes was attributed to their status -as
vestiges from purely nomadic days (Gottwald 1979b: 293-294;
de Geus 1976: 144). It is based on the current anthropological
discussion of the nature of the tribe and its place, if any, in
the evolution of societies (Fried 1967: 154-175; Dole 1968;
Service 1971: 99-132). Without directly entering this debate
or rehearsing the essential characteristics of the Israelite
tribe, it can be noted that it is this stance vis-a-vis tribes and
tribalism thar. permits one to ask how .. tribes formed and
functioned as impermanent "regional alliances" of"mgpal)ot~'
from the standpoint of agricultural subsistence.

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

.. Despite endeavors of "m~paQotftto spread the risk inherent

In,theiragricuituralendeavors, the dependence of all forms
ofi,subsistence con the unpredictably variable pattern of
raintaUpresentsthernost determinative limits to village
alltonomy. Considered from this perspective,the tribe could
be-cast dn.rthe-role of integrating subsistence diversity at a
scale significantly broader than that of the "mgpaI)6t." The
critical question is whether or not tribal territories
incorporated on the basis of their productive circumstances
the potential for effective exchange networks. A negative
answer to, this question comes from geographer Baly who
considers Israel's tribal territories to be "authentic pays" and
tribal unity to have been forged from a unity of subsistence
strategies that mark their territories (1957: 67-77). But Baly's
description arises from a static view of natural regions and
their suitability for different mixes of crops, a view which a
broader understanding of agricultural systems as shaped also
by demographic and technological determinants shows to be
inadequate. From what is preserved of tribal boundaries in
Josh 13-19, moreover, it would appear that in a strictly
geographical sense the tribes did encompass substantial
diversity (Aharoni 1979: 21+8-259). Benjamin sits (Josh 15.5-11;
18.11-20) astride the southern Bethel Hills and stretches
eastward into the Shephelah along the northern side of "nahal
sorek," thereby encompassing three geomorphologically
distinct zones. Zebulon is another good example (Josh
19.10-11+): its territory takes in part of the floor of the
Jezreel Valley, the Nazareth Ridge, Tiran Basin, some of the
undrained Bet Netofa Valley as well as the Allonirn Hills of
western Lower Galilee. Geographical homogeneity may be
characteristic of the districtlng of the monarchical period
(Aharoni 1979: 316, 355), but it hardly pertains to the tribal
regions whose borders have been fossilized in the texts of
Joshua. It must be noted as well that tribal "borders" show
great flexibility depending upon historical circumstances and
that this ability to adapt to changing circumstances
contributes greatly to tribal viability (see Gottwald 1979b:
However one characterizes the tribal territory and its
geography, there is no questioning the fact that local
variations in rainfall accumulations open the way for
concomitant crop success and failure for agricultural villages
within the same tribal boundaries. In other words, while it is
true that "miSpab6t" themselves attain a wide
mix of subsistence means because of their variegated

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

.• ·cleimS.j~,·.his
agc;i~s!;~~the .,';Ylik.:!ih()<>d»"()f.,the';;chiefdom.i;;Jas)s·a
orgal'liiatiori;ill.ji,earlylSra~l; H9Z9b:323), itis,thepr
environfl1enta~rl.lncc:rt~~y~which ·is.decisive • • ifl>d.e;e
whether .thi~!:mix wooldor.> would •.• not . provide, fo
sufficiency. 'r}t 'is almost a ' nc:cessary .. presuppositj()
continuedsettledexisten<:e in. the Highlands that . one
munity or "mi~paba" <be able . to call upon another difl
entlysituated ."mgpaba"for relief in times of crisisa.ndth~.~.
some social .: links . . . be' . . maintained for this ·.eventl1a~~~rt
Given the less tangible nature of tribal social 1inkages'tf\:~C:
appears to be 'more justification for ~iewingthetribc:,i.P
distinctio fl to the "mHlpaQa," as a crisis. management cOfltc:%~
rather than one marked by regular reciprocities. On theotli~r'
hand, . such normal phenomena as . variation .in harvr~"t
schedules between relatively proximate' villages would Hay~
provided some regular opportunities for .reciprocal exchange~
of labor. Other similarly important but not crucial means of
maintaining Iinkages for the eventuality of subsistence crisis
surely', existed: "Social i links with those outside of one's
immediate terrain are the ultimate insurance against. fa m'"
ine" (Colson I 98(): (23). One particularly important kind' of
social linkage may well have facilitated the operation of the
''food bank' on . the .hoof ," "MiSpal)ot'" would have mixed
agricultural and pastoral pursuits in varying proportions
depending especially upon the productive circumstances of
their territories, and these differentials would have promoted
exchange. An increase of livestock beyond the ability of onE:
community to absorb could have been sold, bartered,or
shared through the cultic celebrations that followed lambing
season in the spring. Direct evidence for this kind of
exchange cannot be hoped for, but It should be consider~
probable that the search for specific archaeological evidence
for regional' exchange will eventually be rewarded (Frick
1979: 242-248).
Whether or not clarity is gained about the formation and
functioning of the larger tribal entities from a considerafion
of the demands of agricultural subsistence, there can be no
doubt that the relationship between "bet fab" and "mHlpaM"
has been shaped by the need to spread risk and optimize labor
in Highland agriculture. The small size and relative
instability of the "bet 'ab" does not. match the regular
agricultural labor demands in a way that produces anything
but a Ilmitedautcnomy; The seasonal flow of labor demand as
well as the occasional need for larger quanta of labor and the

Chapter Nine - Risk Spreading &. Labor Optimization

requirement of supra-household planning and cooperation

further impel the formation of larger sodalities. Since social
relations are the best insurance against subsistence failure
for the individual cultivating family, the "mgpal)a" must be
conceived as forming the social context - the risk-spreading
context - for the agricultural life of the family. Mutual aid
was not reserved for "emergencies" but was a regular
function of this group. Such agriculturally related impulses
were not, of course, the only such inducements to social
relations in the early Iron Age Highlands. The military
function of the "miSpal)a" to which Gottwald has pointed may
well have been a more decisive role. (See earlier in this
section.) Nevertheless, the population landscape of the
Highlands can be imagined as thoroughly criss-crossed by
relations carrying out the vital agricultural objectives of
optimizing labor and spreading risk.



Mountu.ins of Galilee and Samaria..



MAJOR achievement of this look at agricultural

subsistence in the Highlands of Canaan has been
to identify the crucial challenges which con-
fronted its inhabitants in the early Iron Age.
In the process, the frequently cited list of
obstacles faced by the settlers of the Highlands in the period
of Israel's emergence has been tested. Both a general
appreciation of the dynamics of agriculture and a detailed
examination of the specifics of agricultural systems in the
early Iron Age Highlands have shown this customary list to be
a misreading of early Israelite life. In general terms, the
reconstruction of Israelite settlement has focused too
narrowly upon tools and techniques and has posited
contributions for these - e.g., for the development of iron
metallurgy - which were abstracted from the reaIia of
agricultural systems. Divorced from the environmental and
demographic parameters of agricultural systems, innovations
in tools and techniques assume larger-than-life proportions. A
limiting definition of technology has also played a role in
obscuring an array of other essential knowledge and skills,
especially social skills.
Most reconstructions of early Israelite settlement place
much emphasis upon forest clearing as a key to agriculture in
the Highlands. But given the vegetational state of the
Highland evergreen forest and maquis and assuming that fire
was a more. significant land-clearing tool than the axe, the
magnitude of this task cannot have been as great as has been
imagined. Moreover, fully cleared and prepared crop fields
emerge only gradually around pre-industrial farming villages.
Water is an essential for life, of course, and the seasonal
availability of water suggests that the hewing of cisterns - in
impermeable rock or to be plastered - be included among the
prerequisites for Highland settlement. But the evidence from

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan

the occupation sites of the period does not bear out

assumption: water cisterns are not such a prominent
of the archaeological record. Similarly, ease of
water was often outweighed by other factors in the selectk
of settlement sites, demonstrating its' relative rather
absolute priority. The creation of agricultural terraces
also been given a much too prominent place on the list
challenges facing Highland settlers. The rich soil profiles
emerged from beneath cleared forest certainly faced
prospect of degradation due to the erosive power of Hj,ph,l",r,ti
precipitation. Yet there was probably considerable COnS1Jmp-
tion of the soil base before costly terraces were cOfl..stru
to maintain productivity. Evidenceforwidespreadterr
is at best thin in this period and does not become substa
until the Sth century. .< •.•••

The tasks of terrace building, cistern hewing,and to

clearing no doubt occupied vital places in the agricultural 1
of the early Iron Age Highlands of Canaan. Its structure did
not, however, respond exclusively or even primarily to these
requirements. From a consideration of the entire constell-
ation of environmental, demographic, and technological

parameters of agriculture in the Highlands there emerges a

much different set of challenges that gave shape to the
struggle for agricultural subsistence. To lift up these
challenges as discrete entities is problematic - their in-
terrelation in systems of agriculture having been manifest
repeatedly above - yet they provide a useful way to outline
the picture of Highland agricultural life achieved here.
The geomorphological variegation of the Highlands,
frequently heightened by the nature of its climate,
vegetation, and soils, shapes the first of these key challenges:
to take advantage of the environmental diversity. In point of
fact, the natural diversity of the Highlands does not so much
pose a challenge to its settlers as it presents possibilities for
securing agricultural subsistence. The challenge emerges
from constraints imposed by the overall agricultural
feasibility of the environment and by other parameters .~
notably inefficient transportation and limitations on labor
supply. Nevertheless, the diverse environment challenges
agricultural settlers to exploit a maximum number of niches
or settings by planting a diverse repertoire of crops at a
spectrum of intensities and by mixing Iivestockrhusbandry
with farming. To the extent that this is possible, village and
even familial autonomy is promoted. It should be noted in
passing that this environmental diversity also limits inclusive

Chapter Ten - Conclusion

characterizations' of agricultural life in the early Iron' Age

trlighlands:·0ttlere,t\isno;;single ;set.et- environmental chaiienges
that" fconfronted2alL\;1srael•., Recognition of this fact casts
seriouS;tdoubtstupon/daims >fora'single innovation " in
agricultural+technology ·.as·the .. key lor explaining the
transformation of the settlement map. The locations of the
dispersed sites of .the early Iron Age with . respect to
agricultural '.resources "onlycement this restriction. No
blanket term can .serve to characterize the agricultural
feasibility of these settlement sites: they nestle in both
marginal and quite favorable locations.
The . variability. of the Highlands environment, especially
the erratic precipitation regime, stands behind a second key
challenge: to butler the variability of the environment and to
cope with its . impact . on agricultural subsistence. Risk-
reduction strategies are . buffering agents; risk-spreading
strategies are the agents for coping. There is little doubt that
risk-spreading strategies provided the greatest enhancement
of subsistence .. security in the early Iron Age Highlands.
Partial justification for this assertion lies in a negative or at
least neutral assessment of capabilities for risk reduction,
primarily the construction of terraces. But this decision with
respect to terracing is hardly clear-cut. The control of the
intense rainfall has to number among the most crucial
agricultural objectives demanded of settlers in this hilly
region, and terracing is the number one strategy by which to
achieve this objective. Of utmost importance is ensuring as
rapid as possible replenishment of water reserves in the soil.
By reducing run-off and increasing infiltration terrace
systems facilitate this replenishment and thus buffer the
vagaries of the annual rainfall pattern that loom so large in
determining the success of a year's crops. Around springs,
terraces would expand the area available for irrigation. These
benefits are apparent in the short term and, depending upon
the extent of a community's dependence upon terracing,
would add considerably to the stability and reliability of
agricultural production.
The .omnipresence .of threats from the variable rainfall
and the consequent importance of risk-reduction strategies
further suggest that communities would be willing to accept
a greater labor burden in order to reap the benefits of costly
terrace systems. The existence of strong motives for ag-
ricultural behaviour stemming from the high-risk Highland
environment increases the probability that terraces found a
placeuin;the:.agricultural system of even the small and

Hop(cins ·.::.lhe.H ighlands9~< C::iinaan

unstaql~cpl'Tll'Tlut'litiesJhat ..·dot..Jthe.i~e~tlel'Tl~nt!ll1ap "of.

eClFIYijlroll(l\ge.\!;rhis~is!;I1ot .: to·l'Tlin~rn:ize; • tl1e",immense.!i!
costs ".•0f!!teFrCice..1.buildingDand ·•.. roaintenans:e., rqutronly;
suggesti;;that<.su<::tl'r.costs !!might >.pave.!beenriwillingly;;
uneconomicaHy borne.)byeven. labol'-,strapped HighlaT!.4.
cultivators-c.L . .i~.t~
Therabsence of ·.a significant body of archaeological
evidence for the existence of terraces around early Iron Age
settlement .sites prevents one, however, from foUowingthis
line of reasoning confidently. The!suspiciot'lthat theamoun1
of terracing or .the extent of dependence upon terraces.was
strictly limited in the early Iron Age Highlands emerges alSQ
froffi,aiconsideration .of the zonal pattern of settlement a~
the apparent match of land resources and land need s.Wh~.f,l
this settlement scene changes radically in Iron Age II, terraCe.
systems. also begin to appear prominently in .: ·the
archaeological record, reinforcing. the significance of their
absence in the earlier period. Rather than a dominating
feature on hiH-slopesthroughoutthe early Iron Age
Highlands, the ap pearance of terrace systems would have been
a much more random' phenomenon, the result of variable local
conditions. and site histories. The number' of villages which
would have boasted widespread terracing •was probably not
large, and, thus, risk reduction did not contribute
substantially to subsistence security in the early Iron Age
Risk-spreading strategies that take material forms are, in
contrast, abundantly evidenced .botharchaeologically and
biblically. ThecoUared-rim pithoi, storage buildings, and
grain-pits so characteristic of early Iron Age settlements are
all concrete expressions of the attention paid to storing
produce from.a year of plenty to provide for . a year of
farming ·failure~ The broad spectrum oL.food crops .- some of
them storable - that has come to light further attests to the
importance of risk spreading in early Israelite agricultural
life. The contribution of pastoral pursuits -. the chief means
of diversifying subsistence means ~ to: coping' with. .the
vagaries of the environment cannot be doubted. Livestock
husbandry is indispensable to subsistence security in the
Highlands, though the extent of dependence upon herds and
flocks and of •success in integrating them into farming
practice is not yet known. Numerous agricultural practices
which leavenoarchaeologically detectable record, must also
have played .vital roles in spreading risk: staggered sowing,
field fragmentation, and the production oia normal surplus,

Chapter Ten - Conclusion

tOj')amce justthree•. lnaddition,the role of supra-household

sod;», groupings'", . especiaUYLthe "mgpa l)a" .- providing a
context for the sharing of risks. is evidenced by biblical data
and suggested .byethnographic.analogy. Social relations
provide the best insurance against subsistence failure for the
individual cultivating family. The same holds true for the
Village which had to be able to call upon differently situated
communities for relief in times of crisis.
The ability of ancient Highlands communities to meet the
above challenges - to take advantage. of the diversity of the
environment, to apply special treatments to buffer its
variability or to organize agricultural production to overcome
it - is largely dependent upon the available labor supply. Thus
a third and crucial challenge surfaces: to provide for the total
agricultural labor needs of the village and of the individual
cultivating household. The ultimacy of this challenge can
be read from the population landscape. The small and
demographically unstable villages composed of small and
unstable families constantly faced crises of insufficient hands
to achieve agricultural subsistence. Reference can be made
here to the labor demands of forest clearing and cistern
hewing, but the tension is much more a part of the ongoing
conduct of farming than of some set of requirements of
initial settlement. The pressures to plow and plant
propitiously, to harvest grains and gather grapes at favorable
moments, and, in general, to muster a sufficient work force
at the right time were real and great. Alongside these labor
demands of regular farming operations, demands on the
supply of labor to put into place risk-reducing and
risk-spreading strategies were an ever-present challenge. The
building of terrace systems, construction of storage
facilities, and the installation of irrigation works all demand
supra-householdplanning as well as greater quantities of
labor than can be supplied ordinarily by even the most viable
family. Since an improvement in the efficiency of
agricultural labor - by virtue of the development of an iron
plowpoint, for example - cannot be called upon to resolve this
tension in the early Iron Age, the social dimension of
subsistence comes more prominently into view. Labor supply
is a function of population size, but also partly a function of
social organization and the existence of social inducements
to contribute increased hours in the fields. Another key
element would have been the formation of communal work
groups for cooperation in times of peak labor demand when
fragile households were unable to supply their total needs and

Hopkins- The Highlands of Canaan

for collective; investments ···.in ; the agricUltural . econQrryyc

beyond ·.;th~ ·.;domain· f ofjindiv4dualfPnouseholds.;·;$4milady'f
wouldhave.. come intoexistencein()rderto"tlikeadval'ltage;?~
variable: harvest times by sharing labor. The potential of·sudi
sodalities suggests strongly that the population landscape of
the early Iron 'Age Highlands was-thoroughly criss-crossedby
social relations which contributed to meeting the-challenge
of providing for the labor needs of agricultural subsistence.
One important objective for the establishment of stable
agricultural systems in the Highlands that cannot be joined to
the list of the crucial-challenges which faced early Iron Age
settlers is the dual ;objective er preserving and •replenishing
soil nutrients and guarding the soil base against erosion'; The
terrain of the Highlands and the high intensity of its annual
rainfall join forces to prompt the protection of its mantle of
vital soils. The seasonal climate and relatively small
contribution of natural vegetation to soil formation raise the
stakes in soil conservation still higher. But other aspects of
the agricultural . system circumscribe the decisiveness of
these environmental conditions. The achievernent : of the
biennial rotation offers a good example. This is a typical
strategy elected in line with the productivity of the soil and
its maintenance. Achieving it is no small task - demanding as
it does intensive inputs of labor for land dearing and field
preparation - but the practice itself is not so telling for early
Israelite agricultural Iife.: More intensive rotational schemes
are simply" not possible except under irrigation or with
industrial inputs. The least intensive agricultural land-use
systems demand significantly more rapid forest regeneration
patterns than the Highlands boast. Similarly, the role of
fertilization in replenishing soil nutrients cannot have been
large in the Highlands, and crop production under the biennial
rotation must have been satisfied with yields that could not
be significantly enhanced. The importance of doing what
could be done in this respect cannot be gainsaid,but the
inherent Jimitationspush agriculture in other directions,
especially towards expanding the subsistence base. Similarly,
the construction of terraces in order to protect the soil base
played only a limited role in Highland agriculture despite the
fact that terracing stands virtually alone as a strategy for
defending hill-slope soils against erosion. Terrace systems
simply cost too much relative to the .gains that ancient
Highlanders might have envisioned. Earlylron Age farming
villages could ill afford to focus their agricultural energies

Chapter Ten - Conclusion

toward$l~~g...~~.trn\']ad~antage~ The '. primary efforts of

Highl~n<:fs:;~tt~r~:~ere/dire?t)d 'iJl other ways than towards
soil eon.s~l"Vati~~andferti1itymaintenaoce •
. Jhus;~~triaa.\~f.subsisteneeehidlengesgave .shape to the
agriculturatli:fe!ofthe Israelite settlers in the early Iron Age
Highlands,'Viz~: •

1.T()t~k¢~d~~ntageoi~n\'ironmental diversity
2. .Tobuifer;the variability of. the environment and to
cop~~ith ,~ts impac:ton agricultural subsistence
3. To proyide for the total labor needs of the village and
indiyidual cultivating household
In considering this constellation of challenges and the
strategies elected to meet them, again and again a glimpse is
caught of the essential status of the social organization of
agricultural subsistence. To imagine an appropriate picture of
farming in the ancient Highlands, the hands-in-the-dirt
features of agricultural operations must be sketched in the
midst of the social fabric in which these operations were
organized . and their'costs, benefits, and liabilities were
distributed. The challenges to be faced in Highland
agricultural settlement permitted no social isolation for
household or village, but impelled these into larger circles of
social relationships. It is only through these latter, and not
through the aegis of some technological breakthrough, that
some measure of subsistence security could be achieved.
This conclusion about the prominence of the social
dimension of agricultural subsistence security provides a good
vantage point from which to gauge the implications of this
study of farming in the early Iron Age Highlands of Canaan
for the diachronic question of the emergence of Israel. It may
be possible to understand the transformation of the
settlement map of the early Iron Age Highlands and the
evolutionect .the larger social body of Israel as a process
propelled by' the attempt of a growing population of settlers
to meet the challenges of agricultural subsistence in the
Highlands! (compare Weippert 1979: 33). With the breakdown
of Late.. Bronze Age society, the highlands were left devoid
of strong polity and empty of all but a small number of
settlements•. :; The low . population density, the disruption in
social. institutions, and the instability of the period
contributed. to the structuring of a subsistence system
situatedat"the' more extensive end of the· agricul-
tural-pastoralspectrum••The non-nucleated population of the
Highlands:<::onstituted"a greater fraction of the whole,

Hopkins .'r The.Highlanc!lJof Canaan

a.9dJt lJ~~l.tre<f •. it~; lJub~ilJtecl1c:evpr~ma~ilY'1throygh .li~~~t~

llU~~l"\<fry£H~ut;?plJthec,poPtfla.fi()~rot.tne· •.~.t-iighlandlJtrC!
increalJedduririg ·ttle,;~arlY.;Jronu~ge" the tota! . . pro
dema.nde~.of the.a.grIc:ultlJral-pastor<l1;~YlJtemmu!tipli
thesal'De ;time .p.n increalJednumber of hands .provided;t~~
potential for movement up the scale of agricultural intensity;
and the numbervof vilJages where agriculture constituted the
primary means of subsistence began to grow. Whatever th~
source of t~~p()ptJ1ationgrowth, it would be a l11istake to
corceive. thetransforl'D~tionof·the settlement •.• map narrowly
as" the initial"settling clown" Of nomadic or migrant groups
which had previously been socially distinct and unrelated to
settled.agricultllralists.Rather, it. represents a movement
along the . pastoral-agricultural ;'.continuum ; in response to
increasing demands for subsistence and social production.
increased number of Highland Inhabitants-: could not nb~
supported by the Late Bronze Age economy. The shift faa
more intensive exploitation regime relieved these pressures.
New social relations were forged in this shift to.c\
village-based, predominantly agricultural subsistence system.
While still incorporating a significant component of livestock
husbandry, a decisive change was taking place among the
groups - turned villages -struggling for subsistence under this
new regime. They were relinquishing the ability afforded by a
predominant dependency upon pastoralism to respond readily
to the vagaries of the environment. In place of such
capabilities and . the autonomy they undergirded, these
communities were impelled to build networks which could be
relied upon for the exchange of vital commodities in timt!$of
need. The establishment of many new settlements in areas of
less than. optimal agricultural feasibility increased. the 'need
for such cooperation and added as well to the demand :tor
labor ..tofund+various "special treatments" to increase the
stability of: production. While the growing population bad
reached a level sufficient to instigate the intensification of
production, the supply of labor cannot initially have been
adequate to meet all the challenges of achieving agr1cultUl'al
subsistence security. The development of mechanisms to
increase absolute labor supply, encourage a greater pee
capita contribution of labor, and to optimize labor thr~
communal work groups.was a necessity. Gottwald is surely
correct in suggesting that the critical question for .: -tbe
Highlanders of the early Iron Age, when no broad economic
system imposed a level of agricultural· production, "was1iO
organize forces and relations of production that could secUll"e

Chapter . Ten - Conclusion

them a stable and advancing subsistence level" (1979b: 662).

The 1 importance of . the.' labor;~corilponentLin pre-industrial
agricultutal.economiesjoinsc"with.thecharacterof .. the
population landscape of this period to produce the recognition
that the process of intensification was a gradual one that
jogged an •. extremely jagged course toward agricultural

subsistence securi ty,

If the picture of the agricultural life of the period of
Israel's emergence developed here accurately portrays the
challenges faced by Highland settlers, then in it may be found
the matrix for some portion of early Israelite literature. Such
has already. been discovered to be the case with some of
Israel's legal traditions _. notably a few laws in the Book of
the Covenant which appear to regulate a diverse agricultural
scene (Exod 22.5,10-13,14-15). It is not difficult to conceive
of stipulations concerning sexual conduct as rooted in the
challenge of . increasing the population in general and
protecting the fragile household in particular (e.g., Lev 18;
see Meyers 1978: 98-100). The sabbatical-year law is an
eloquent examplemot only of.: how an understanding of the
agricultural world of ancient Israel aids in exegesis and the
recovery of the matrices of biblical literature, but also of
how the challenges facing early Israelite settlers may have
fashioned particular institutions. Having seen the potential
fit of a general year of fallowing into the cereal rotation,
now imagine the demands that preparing for this year would
make upon Highland agricultural systems. Nlobilization of
labor to increase pre-sabbatical year plowing and planting
and to gather a larger harvest, construction of storage
facilities, maintenance of distribution networks, and planning
and coordination of community-wide efforts are all activities
that such an institution would elicit. The practice of a
general fallow year is no less than a simulation of a crisis of
crop failure. It creates, tests, and maintains necessary
devices for coping with such a failure - the consequences of
which all adult members of a farming village would no doubt
have vividly implanted in their memories. Besides satisfying
any number of other community goals (e.g., it can also be
interpreted as a social leveling device), the sabbatical-year
law embodies a divinely sanctioned institution which would
enforce elasticity of agricultural production and promote
social cohesion, both essentials for subsistence security.
Other examples of the potential of viewing the challenges
of agricultural subsistence .asthe matrix of early Israel's
traditions come .to mind. The narratives of the patriarchs and

Hopkins - The Highlands of Canaan ->: --~"

~~~i<lf~hs:~n~k!he.,~~ld~~~ess;~Ci~dETings ;may'preser~e'for
'th~.:t~Cifl,Y'k'ti:;fCi~lit~~ttc9m~uei~~!Y~~i;~~rll'latiOl'\C'rWa ,.
P(js5~b~ei'cours~s:'of/Cl¢ti?if€~pe~0~h~:~rt1g~le;f?r '~t1bsi~ .•,
fcrl!s;a~;itYlnost J'slir~lY:;(fi?J·'Wittt"gr~at'f~e<J~el1CY"inJth~;., •. ../,;~
lrailAge Highlands.; G(jls()n:lis~s.Ithe'!stor age and transll1issi()'if '.,
of • informCitiorr'about. whatwe..'•. ~ClUfClminefoodsll asess~~tia.~;;,
to survival in a high-riskenvironmel1t(I9&0:2I).';'~·
preservation of the wilderness- traditions with . their constant
atte~tion to unusual sources of. sustenance,' may well;' hiive
been a response to this priority.:SimUarly, the migration,?!
Israel's ancestors throughout Canaan:anddown into Egypt
presents a paradigm fot-fleeing famine in the Highlands. It;ls
notewo~hythat Egypt is n()tthe sole locus of recourse dt.rrin~
crises' of bread ,and" pasture"b\1t;that- Philistine'land: also
figures, prominently'. (Geo 26),:3., refugedoser to home •.• wit~
which social relations apparently could 'be cultivated. The
high view of work that is part of the creation epic of Gen2-i3 .
(the human creature is placed in the garden "to till it and
keep it") fits very well with the importance of meeting the
Highlands "villagestneeds for ." agriculturallabor.Whether~t~e
work ethic so pronounced inproverbialHterature has its ro?ts
in this need is also ""orthy bfinvestigation. Proverbs such,as.
12.}l,;15.19,' 20.4, and 2&.19 make specific referencet?
agricultural labors in this regard. Motivations to diligence;
however, are appropriate in < any" scene of agricultural
intensification. The maxims of Proverbs may have had their
provenance in the monarchical period when the royal
bureaucracy had a real interest in discouraging idleness. - .J::;
Beyond the peri<>dandliterature of earlier' Israel :th~
picture of agricultural life' presented here is invaluable; for
d1artingthe trajectoryof>Israelitesociety and the changes
brought about by the formation of the monarchy. Early lrait
Age society was very much a transitional society .. o,ne Whic~
occupied a quite short;;albeitmeaningful,period-in.' Israelite
history as a whole. The challenges which characterized its
agricultural subsistence systems and the strategies elected to
achieve them did not remain altogether valid for monarchical
times. There" is ample evidence of a. disjuncture in the
agricultural life of households, villages, and tribes that owes
its existence to the different set, of agricultural challenges
that stemmed from the creation and maintenance of a royal
institution. Twopriodties;. of "' an;';" agricultural economy,
dominated by the, monarchical state ;stand» out.?<The
rnonarchylsprincipal,•• preoccupe'tion-withellve oil, wine,and
cereals "as commodities for taxation and trade (e.g.,IKgS

Chapter Ten - Conclusion

5.25) at the expense of other crops and pasture land for herds
and flocks stands in opposition to the village-based
subsistence objectives of risk spreading and optimizing labor
through the diversification of subsistence means. Secondly,
the self-explanatory demand of the royal house for regular
levy conflicts with the realities of the variable environment
of Highland subsistence to an extent that is hard to
exaggerate. Together, royal pressures for specialization and
regularity provide a clear indication of the nature of the
impact of the formation of the monarchy on the agricultural
systems of the early Iron Age Highlands (see Hopkins 1983).
The extent to which the monarchy succeeded in advancing,
blocking, or displacing altogether the characteristic objec-
tives of the pre-monarchical period in the creation of new
agricultural systems demands separate study. It is certain,
however, that this change occurred and that the tension
between the nature of agricultural subsistence in the period
of Israel's emergence and in the monarchical period itself
contributed greatly to the shape of Israelite and Judean
history and to the literature that emerged from it.




Notes to Chapters One de Two



1 ··." . •. rh~the(}ryof··.the ···gradualsettlement of 'semi-nomadic stock-

breeders cuts across the grain by offering a "life-style" rather than a
technological •innovation .asa . key· to . understanding the entrance of
Israel into the Canaanite Highlands. In place of a material explanation
for' why these folk decided to settle, it sets a supposition about their
ethos, Semi-nomads are "land-hungry" and ''always hanker after a more
settled life in the coveted agricultural countryside" (Noth 1960:69). The
study of the place of pastoralism in the larger agricultural system can
test this supposition and suggest. an alternative explanation for a
settlement pattern which Alt, Noth and others explain historically
<Compare de Geus 1976:165).


The Parameters of Agricultural Systems

2 Wolf explains that a given set of spots of permanent cultivation is

combined with the sporadic use of the hinterland 0966:21). The classic
example of this cultivation system has been explored by Netting
0968:56). The Kofyar practice intensive cultivation of homestead fields
as well as less intensive farming of more distant fields.
3 The location of timber production is determined not by degree of
intensity, since forestry is an extensive use of land, but by the
importance of wood for building and fuel and its high transportation
4 Ester Boserup includes under this label systems whose ratio of
cropping to fallow approaches that of short-fallow cultivation (1:2), but
which have longer periods of uninterrupted cultivation which approach
in length the 6-10 year period of bush-fallow (I 965:15).
5 By eeotype Wolf refers to a system of energy transfers from the
environment to the human community consisting in a set of food
transfers and a set of devices used to harness inorganic sources of
energy to the productive processes. Paleotechnic is contrasted with
neotechnic and is marked by the employment of human and animal labor
rather than energy supplied by combustible fuels and scientific skills
(I 966:1 9).
6 For a critique of the assumption that agricultural systems are
permanent and unvarying and of the concept of carrying capacity,
defined as the largest number of people that could be supported
indefinitely by .a given system of cultivation without permanent or
accumulating injury to the soil, 'see Street 1~69:104-l07. Street
contends that too little attention is paid to soil degradation in
anthropological studies of farming systems and that conditions
encountered by observers in the field are usually equated with the ideal
without .serio\ls. consideration •of possible cumulative changes in
envlronmerir which ~re too slight to be perceived in the Short-term.
Tarrant alsorefects "the'concept of agricultural production ultimately
reaching astatic. equalibriumwhere a given environment has an
optimum solution independent of time" (1974:1 3-14).

Notes to Chapters Two, Four A five

7 In a more recent study, Boserup further substantiates this point by

reference to the phenomenon. that peak-season.labor sets the limits of
agricultural production. She writes: I!But when high rates of population
growth result in a steady increase in the supply of peak-time labor,
there-Is .incentive to expand the area under cultivation, and agricultural
output becomes more elastic"JI ?75-.259).
& Ope aspect of· Boserup's picture of the population parameter that
cannot be carried on is her claim for its independence of changes in
technology. Boserup may have felt the need to radicalize her assertion
of the importance of population in the face of its widespread neglect.
However, the relationship between population and agriculture is nota
Iinearvbut a circular one in which feedback plays an important role. See
further on this, Sandersl?72:147-148.


Climate and Climatic Change

? The percentages are based on data from Jerusalem, as are so

many of the climatological calculations as a consequence of the long
sequence of meteorological observations begun there in 1846. There is
some room for doubt about the reliability of extrapolating from the
Jerusalem data to cover the whole of the Highlands, but this is a
question for expert meteorologists.
10 The 12 percent figure was arrived at in the following manner:
I00-60.percent (the loss to evaporation) leaves 40 percent. The 5
percent figure for surface runoff is 12 percent of this remainder.
Alternatively, if we accept the 15 percent top of the scale given by
Orni and Efrat (1973:148), then the total runoff loss would be 38 percent
by the same method of calculation.
11 Philip Mayerson (1960:8) catalogs the various refutations of
Huntington's theory. Semple 0931:100) lists the variety of positive
evidence against it. Ellsworth Huntington (1911:403). presents a graphic
representation of "the whole course of climatic pulsations from the
earliest times to the present" which shows a progressive desiccation
through fluctuations of decreasing amplitude to today's conditions.


Natural Vegetation and Soils

12 Zohary (I962:71-73) discusses the means of reconstructing the

climax vegetation of a deforested area. He notes the following sources
of information: remnants of the former plant cover, preserved because
of their stubborn nature or intentionally in "sacred groves," doc..
umentary references to forests and trees, and ecological analogy. Q.
calliprinos, whose name will not be found in the standared taxonomic
works, is the eastern Mediterranean variant of the western Mediter-
ranean Q. coccifera (Kerrnes Oak), according to Zonary (1962:102)•.
13 Spores (1969:557-569) was able to place chronologically a major
bout . of erosion by examining pottery-bearing alluvial deposits which
revealed a soil stratum clearly washed down from the surrounding
hillsides. Such well-defined profiles are probably too much to hope for

Notes to Chapters Five & Six

among the alluvial soHs of the intermontane basins of the highlands.

Compare, however,theresults of the analysis of fluvial and colluvial
deposits on the island of Melos carried out by Davidson, Renfrew, and
Tasker (l976);C\ ~'"
14 The limestone parentage of terrarossa -accounts for this high
cation exchange capacity. The relative aridity of the region, its wet-dry
seasonality, and consequerrtlallyIow rates of . mineral loss to leaching
mean that the potential rcation- capacity of~ terra rossa is often
unrealized. In comparison, the leached soils (alrlsolls) of parts of
southeastern Pennsylvania have cation exchange capacities in the range
of 10-20 meq,
15 It is worth noting here that the determination of soil fertility in
an absolute sense wiU not be a sure predictor. of its agricultural use.
Within an agricultural system,as"Barlett (1980:551) points out,
determinations of soil quality are lodged in "an interaction of prices,
markets, technology, and population density and are not based on an
absolute agronomic capability."


16 The determination of the area covered by settlements often

proves problematic, especially at the sites of renewed occupation. Some
of the sizes presented here represent explicitly reported estimates
while others are calculations based upon site plans or other data
scattered in publication reports. For example, the estimate of the size
of the Hazer occupation is based upon the report of the area of the top
of the upper tel and the discovery of Stratum XII, the earliest
settlement of the Iron Age, in all the excavated areas of the upper tel
(Yadin 1972:129). The sizes of two important sites in Upper Galilee,
Sasa and Har Adir, were unavailable to me. Whether all these sites are
correctly associated with the early Israelite occupation is a proper
question. Tel Qlri and IIzbet Sartah are least secure in this respect
given their locations in proximity to non-ISraelite settlements of some
size and given the fact that the sole "evidence" of the identity of the
occupants comes in the form of certain pottery types and building
styles whose testimony in this respect can be seriously questioned. See
below, "Domestic buildings" and "Pottery types and installations."
17 Braemer's main methodological critique of Shiloh is that he began
his study with a conception of the four-room house, a stance that
necessarily limited his field of vision and resulted in a circularity of
reasoning (1982:42).
18 Accordingly, Weippert (1971:134-135) is not quite correct in his
understanding of this pottery as "a particular fashion (ModeerscheinungJ
of the early Iron Age" whose occurrence at ~ settlements of the
period is not at all surprising. Rather, this pottery belongs more
integrally to the social and economic settings in which it is found.
19 Calculations were made on the basis of the scale drawings of one
of the collared-rim jars from Sahab provided by Ibrahim (I 978:116). The
volume of this jar was approximated byca!culating the volumes of each
of twentycyHnders . into which it was imaginarily sectioned. The
volume of each cylinder of internal area was determined by multiplying

·Notes to Chapter

its height; tlmeatheareacf.the .~ir<;lE; at.~ts..(:.~f\ter,!hus.a,ifTling~t,

a'{~ageof: ~StsJOe~gisk.!~~IJ1"le,$Pta,!.·i\f9jH!lle'i. 9:.~~~,e.1~~~ntY
wa~;-1~~.~(J¥t~~'::~lg-:\'Jf:$/~)14;(J:~;E(~i::'~~4:q--:-;;~;~~t'~1'';;2z;t;:k:T/~:7:~j;i,--~:r1~~'-:)::;'J;_:\;F;~i'1:4'_i;:}·· '·F ',:.';.,<",_"
20 "fhe <iiscoveryofiwaterprClClfplaster. at tl;i time hils ofte
adducej:!.pS.,Qflei.ma,t,eJ:ii:tlPPla~<ltion for:tf)e~~s~Ofliofisettle
theHighla,ll<is.l'egiQnst(~:~ve,.<::I)'iil ,§i.\).. Il'lis,;cQIltentionhas h
disproven .bythe <:IiscoyerY:.9fplasteredcisterns..()f a much .earlierag~"
See de Geus 1 ?76:15~and:the.literatlJrethere .cit¥~': ...·.··'... . . ,.,i3f':;~
21 McClellan,. (197;1:12,..13) employstl)isform!,lIato . arriveat "a-b
average household size for Stratum A atTell BeitMirsim which he then
adjusts with the use ofother data•. The formula has been applied to data
from 'Aiafld Kh,.RaQdana bYiHarmon(1981:4-6) though he publishes
only the results ofhis-computations and not the pure data. Lawrence E.
Stager may have been the .first to apply this formula to archaeological
data from Palestine, (I 9j75:185).He uses it to estimate the populations
of late Iron II sites. in;1he.::J.udeanDesert. In his forthcoming work,
"Highland Villages," Stager employs Naroll's formula in a comparison
between the sites of tAi, Kh, Raddana, and Tel Masos.
22 The figures for the houses at 'Ai are as follows:
House no. Internalarea (m 2) No. of occupants
17 17.8 2
152 34.9 3
189 . '44.0 4
201 22;4 2
Calaway,Zon~B' 28.9 3
Internal area wascalculated.from measurements supplied in Braemer's
site-by-slte house.catalog (1982:166-169).,
23 The figures for the houses at Tel Masos are as follows:
House no. Internal area (m 2) No. of occupants
St. III 74 70.7 7
St. II 2 70.8 7
42 613 6
60 33.8 3
88 81.7 8
16764.7 6
lnrernalarea was calculated from measurements supplied in Braemer's
slte-by-site house catalog(l982:251-254).~·with the site. of 'Ai,
Braemer has recovered his measurements from published plans.
24 Some house sizes from those other communities can also be
computed. Again, the data are taken from Braemar (1982:202, 209-210,
238), except in the case of Giloh, whose excavators provide exact
measurements (A. Mazar 1980:8-9).
Site and House InternaJarea(m 2) . No. of occupants
Bethel no. 38 119.4 12
Tel Esdar no. 90 41.5 4
'Izbe t Sartah no. 112 103.9 10
Glloh no. 8 87.3 9
One. house per site does nor-permit any .meanfngful conclusions. In
Leblanc's data large standard deviations of dwelling areas among the
domestic, units cauticn- against taking .any given household as .an

Notes to Chapters Six, Eight &, Nine

indicator of the village average and suggest that only large samples will
be accurate{l971:21O).
25 These radii can be determinedaceurately only by .surface rreas-
urement.Measurements'ofdistances }'as the crow flies" underestimate
tl1e, trued~stances, because,.of .'•. .• the.mountainous . topography. 'Ap-
proximations of the ;radius oLexc1usive use can be made by measuring
the distancedrom-eaeh site-to its nearest neighbor in three different
directions and halving the average. See the method as employed by
MacDonald and Simpson (I 972:127).
26 Assuming an annual yield of 750kg of grain per hectare and an
annual consumption of 41t0kg per person, planting only 30 percent of the
terri tory. enclosed by. a 2km radius has the potential of producing two
times the annual requirement of grains for a population numbering the
three hundred persons at the top of the estimate scale for 'Ai, Broshi,
however, reports an average annual consumption of grain about half the
figure used in this estimate, a rate of consumption which would halve
the.rpercentage of territory needing to be brought into production


Agricultural Objectives and Strategies:
Soil Conservation and Fertility Management

27 Here, as below, we are considering the impact of the sabbatical-

year law exclusively on sown fields, leaving orchards and vineyards out
of .consideration,
2& Legumes are plants whose root system can develop nodules which
fix (i.e., turn from gaseous to solid form) nitrogen. Russell (1973:359)
states the process thus: "Nodules contain bacteria living symbiotically
with the plant: the plant leaves supplying the carbohydrates and the
bacteria the amino acids for the combined organism."
29 Borowski (I979:22) suggests that the cities with names similar to
"madmeml" ("compost") namely Madmen (Jerlt&.2), Madmena (lsa
10.31), Madmanna (Josh 15.30, and Dirnna (Josh 21.35), "could have
specialized in compost making." Limited and labor-intensive trans-
portation means probably would not have permitted the distribution of
bulky compost from central preparation sites.


Agricultural Objectives and Strategies:
Risk Spreading and the Optimization of Labor

3D, . See, the very brief discussion of ironworking installations in Muhly

19&2:53-54. To my knowledge, the only reported iron smeltry cernes
from the ongoing excavation of Tel Yin'am (in Eastern Lower Galilee)
where a smelting chamber together with iron slag has been unearthed
and tentatively dated to the 13th century. The excavators also point out
the absence of any indication of Philistine contact (Leibowitz
1979:229-230; 1982:64-(6).
31 The small percentage of agricultural implements is not
unexpected .given the. locus of archaeological excavation and the
funeral practices 'Of the ancients. As \\Ialdbaum notes (I 980:85),

Notes to Chapter Nine

"because ordinaryctools care .notxcmmonly.placed in graves, e"i~

for the development of agricultural, industrial, and' domestKf
implements Ismuchspottfersthen-for weapons," '$;
32 ,".See,aboveiCh.5§Ci'i!3esides.the;tiSe;offire Yreferredto;her~#<'
other .techniques oftree.,.fellingwereprobably;more ,conspicuous than
the "scene.of d!woodsman;and'taxe',~;that·.is'·con jured' up, by 'many
descriptions of the' settlement of the .Highlands (Deut '19.5}.Cleatirrg's
could be achieved by deadening of trees through a process of girdling;
Initial planting of a field opened to sun and rain through the deadening
of trees would work around the dead trunks. The trees could be removed
in installments. Zohary (1962:210) notes that the removal of trunks and
roots from regions of terra rossa soils' is the greatest obstacle inland
clearing. This would remain true whether trees were felled lniriallyor
deadened and removed only as time passed. The readily plowable field
probably only emerges over a period of time among' technologically
simpler farmers.
33 In this regard it is significant that there is evidence that the"'ard"
has been used without any metal plowpoint at all, only a share-bearri of
special hardwood or fire-hardened wood. This has been observed in
contemporary farming communities in the Andes where it is obviously
not a practice of choice (Brush 1977:92). There is literary evidence for
it in classical Greece where Mediterranean farming conditions prevail
(George E. FussellI972:14-15).
34 Studies of seasonal 'labor requirements of Mediterranean-type
agriculture are not prevalent, to say the least. Adam's discussion of
agriculture in the Diyala plains of Iraq (irrigation-based agriculture
where the most obvious limitation on cultivation is set by the avail-
ability of water) includes a report of the annual labor requirement for
traditional farming 0976:14-16). This summary clearly shows the major
peak in labor utilization is connected with the cereal harvest.
35 For a discussion of the cognate "nawurn" in Mari texts, see
Weippert 0971:1 16 n.61) who gives its primary meaning as "pasture
land." A. Malamat (J 962:l46) considers it basically as a form of
settlement, "encampment." Dever (J 972:106-1 07) accepts a very broad
definition: "the entire complex 'that characterized the countryside:
camp-group, traditional grazing lands, herds."
36 Orni and Efrat (I 97 3:460) assert that the kitchen garden has been
tended in the Mediterranean region "at least since the Chalcolithic
period." However, there does not appear to be any evidence in the town
plans of early Iron Age sites for the location of a kitchen garden, so
termed because of its proximity to the hearth. The site of Giloh near
Jerusalem contains· large enclosed courtyards, but the excavator
interprets these as pens for livestock (A. Mazar 1981:12). The usual
density of nucleated settlement would deter such convenient sources of
produce for the household.
37 The' 8th century farm at Khlrbet er-Ras excavated by Edelstein
and Gibson contained the following agricultural installations: wine and
oil presses, cisterns, towers, water conduits, reservoirs, artificially cut
caves, pathways, and corrals (1982:46, 48). This farm is, however,a
product of circumstances much changed from' the early Iron Age, as
well, no doubt, of royal investment.
38 Ruthenberg' definesinterculture as "arable crops grown below
perennial crops," while intercropping designates "the growing of two or

Notes to Chapter Nine

more crops in different but proximate rows." On the Mediterranean

combination of fruit trees and cereals, see Vogelstein 1894:43. Baly
(1957:102) suggests, probably rightly, that vineyards were also inter-
cultivated: "The pulses were grown in the old days between the vines,
the vineyards being so prepared that there were a succession of hillocks
on which the peas and beans were planted, and hollows into which the
water drained and which were used for vines." The greater need for
cultivation around vines and the more demanding tending that they
require probably discouraged this intercultivation relative to the
olive-grain combination.
39 For a dramatic (but by no means unique) example of the
fragmentation of fields around the Palestinian Arab village, see Granot t
(1953:2 I 0-211) whose Plan C shows the land holdings of the village of
Beit Nabala of which one owner possesses 161 dunam in 53 separate
40 For discussions of the crops of the ancient Highlands and their
relative importance in the diet and economy of ancient Israel, see
Borowski 1979:129-215, who devotes three chapters of his dissertation
to biblical terms for crops, the characteristics of their cultivation, and
their archaeological representation; Zohary 1982:97-104; Negev
1972b:III-112, where biblical references to diet are reviewed. It should
be noted here that the reconstruction of the pantry of the ancient
Highlanders is bedeviled by the haphazard references to foodstuffs
made by the Hebrew Bible (e.g., no mention of the common pea) and the
youth of archaeological attention to the recovery of plant remains for
the historical periods in Syria and Palestine.
41 Perhaps the author shared the attitude of Prov 15.17. It is only
without considering the social locus or intention of texts such as Prov
15.17 and Deut 8.8 that they can be taken as evidence, as Borowski does
(1979:207), of the ''underdeveloped state of horticulture" in the
biblical period. Something of the character of the list in Deuteronomy
is indicated by its exaggerated depiction of the possibilities of mining
iron (Deut 8.9), rich deposits having been found in only one location - in
the Tr ansjordan,
42 With the exception of the olive, there is little data on the yields
of non-cereals. The focus on cereals as the mainstay of the diet and
economy is understandable, though the essential contribution of other
crops should not be overlooked. Among these, the olive shows a definite
pattern of alternating yields which has been documented regionally and
even within the whole Mediterranean (Aschenbrenner 1972:63). This may
not have presented grave difficulties on the small scale of olive raising
in the early Iron Age Highlands, but would have provided a tremendous
impetus to the creation of storage facilities and to engaging in trade
when olive oil production was attempted on a royal scale (Boardman
43 The more common terms include:
so'n sheep, goats baqar cattle
'ayil ram Mr head of cattle
rabel ewe par steer
kebes, kibsa lamb, ewe lamb para cow
fez she-goat 'egel, 'egla calf, heifer
satYr, 'atOO he-goat
gedY kid
Hopkins-The Highlanda ofCanaan

':",'-','>"',":::';" ,','.• "',," ',,',


AAAG Ar1~a!s of theAss~i~tion of American Geographers

AAR American Academy of Religion
AASOR Annual of the ASQR<, •...
AEHL Archaeological-Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (see
ASOR American Schools of Oriental Research
ARAAnnua! Review of Anthropology
BA Biblical Archaeologist.
BAR Biblical Archaeolegist Review
BASOR Bulletin of the ASOR
BRL Biblisches Reallexikon (Galling 1977]
CTA Corpus des rrabletres en cuneiforrnes alphabetiques
[Herdner 1963]
EAEHL .Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the
l-Io!yLanti .. , .
HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual
IDB Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 1962
IDBS Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplement-
IEJ Israel Exploration Journal
lESS International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society
JESHO Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient
J1\4ES. Journal of Near Eastern Studies
JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
PEQ Palestine Exploration Quarterly
SBL Society of Biblical Literature
S,""JA Southwestern Journal of Anthropology
USQR Union Seminary.Quarterly Review
VT Vetus Testamentum,
VTS Vetus TeSctaITU:l;ltu!}l, Supplements
WA World Archaeology
ZAW Zeitschdft fur die Alttestarnentliche Wissenschaft
ZDPV Zeitschdft des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins


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