Historical synthesis

Nowadays, the cultural and historical development of the Late Bronze Age southern Levant is usually seen through the lens of Egyptian history. Egyptian texts have often been taken at face value, especially in regard of the Late Bronze Age of the southern Levant. One reason for this interpretatio aegyptiaca might be that we have considerable textual evidence for the history of the Late Bronze Age. Autobiographies such as those of Ahmose son of Ibana and of Ahmose pa-Nekhbit inform us inter alia about the wars against the Hyksos and the siege of Sharuhen, while later on we have abundant textual sources for the military campaigns of Thutmose III. For the ‘International Age’ of the Late Bronze Age we have the wealth of the Amarna letters that dominates our picture of Egyptian-Levantine relations, and this information is often extrapolated to characterize earlier phases of Late Bronze Age Egyptian involvement in the southern Levant.

This wealth of textual material has led to overwhelmingly text-based historical reconstructions, but archaeological data is needed to counter-balance the inescapably one-sided picture of the textual sources. Nevertheless, textual sources do indeed contain valuable information that, once unraveled, can provide important hints on the political and cultural development of the southern Levant during this transformative period. It is of great importance to assess the textual sources critically (Quellenkritik), taking into consideration the intention(s) of the respective author(s) before outlining historical trajectories. The archaeological evidence has to be fully acknowledged for this new assessment of the beginning Late Bronze Age. The historical study takes the full archaeological picture into account and complements, and builds upon, the results of the sub-project Material culture and Scarabs.

‘Tracing Transformations’ combines a critical historical study with an up-to-date assessment of the archaeological data backed by a high-precision radiocarbon chronology. Only this combination offers the possibility to assess and understand historical trajectories of the formative period of the ‘International Age’ of the Late Bronze Age.