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Settlement, economy, and demography under Assyrian rule in the West: the territories of the former Kingdom of Israel as a test case.


It is commonly agreed that the Assyrians had significant economic interests in the southern Levant and that this consequently brought about a period of stability and peace. These conditions led to economic development, which in turn resulted in settlement expansion, for example, into the inhospitable regions of the Judean Desert and the Negev. There is plentiful evidence for this economic prosperity, the most famous example being the large center for the production of olive oil unearthed in Ekron. During the seventh century Ekron expanded dramatically, reaching a size of over 75 acres. It was a well planned and fortified site in which industrial, domestic, and elite areas of occupation have been identified. Although only 4% of the site has been excavated, some 115 olive oil installations were discovered, with an estimated annual production capacity of at least 500 tons. Gitin (1998: 276), its excavator, has suggested that Ekron was the largest ancient industrial center for the production of olive oil (see also Eitam 1987; 1996). Gitin has explained the reasons for Ekron's economic prosperity as follows:

   [I]ts genesis was an ideology of empire based on the mercantile
   interests of the Neo-Assyrian kings ... The policy resulted from
   the empire's need for an increasing supply of raw materials and
   manufactured goods, especially luxury items, as well as for new
   sources of silver for use as currency. The effect was the formation
   of a new supernational system of political control in the eastern
   Mediterranean basin which produced the pax Assyriaca, 70 years of
   unparalleled growth and development, and an international trading
   network which spanned the Mediterranean, stimulating Phoenician
   trade and colonization in the west. (1995: 61)

He continues (1995: 62) that "this huge 7th century B.C.E. city, with its well-developed town plan and industrial center, resulted from the same Neo-Assyrian interests that produced new urban and commercial centers and a new economic exchange system throughout the Mediterranean basin," also noting (1995: 69) that Ekron "is a prime example of the innovative Assyrian policy of industrial specialization and mass production which concentrated large-scale industrial activity in one center." According to this view, Ekron was an example of the accomplishment of the "long-standing Assyrian goal of urbanization of its territories" (1989: 48). Finkelstein and Singer-Avitz (2001: 253) have also stressed active Assyrian involvement, suggesting that Ekron was "upgraded into an important regional centre" by Sargon II.

But this prosperity was not limited to Philistia. Evidence for economic and settlement growth has also been found in the Negev, especially in the Beersheba and Arad valleys, where settlement prospered in the seventh century (Na'aman 1987; Finkelstein 1994; Faust 2008, with many refs.), and evidence for trade, including the large-scale importation of cedars (Lipschits and Biger 1991: 172; Faust and Weiss 2005, with refs.), is abundant. Na'aman (1995: 114) has explained the phenomenon: "[T]he prosperity of the southern frontier of the kingdom of Judah is the direct result of the pax Assyriaca and the growth of the Arabian caravan trade that stemmed from the economic activity of the Assyrian empire" (also Na'aman 1987; 1995: 113).

The same holds for Edom, where the surge in settlement in the late Iron Age and even the formation of the Edomite state in the highlands have been attributed to Assyrian activities and interest. Thus Knauf argued (1995: 98) that "the sudden onset of settlement activity indicates that the factors that constituted the market emerged suddenly, in connection with the establishment of the pax assyriaca: the state ... ; the Edomite copper industry ...; and Edomite participation in long-distance trade ..." Finkelstein (1995: 137) has noted that "Iron Age occupation at Edom reached its peak in the 8th-7th centuries BC, possibly as a result of Assyrian activity in the region." Na'aman (1993: 118), too, has attributed the prosperity in Edom to Assyrian involvement in the Arabian trade and perhaps also in copper mining, and has suggested that deportations, "when combined with planned development, could create settlement growth and economic prosperity" (emphasis added). Elsewhere he has stated (1995: 114) that "the pax Assyriaca and the economic prosperity brought about, for the first time in history, the emergence of a territorial kingdom in this remote arid zone" (see also Gitin 1997). Various scholars have stressed the importance of economic considerations in Assyrian policy (Finkelstein and Ussishkin 2000: 602; Na'aman 2001: 275; Bunimovitz and Lederman 2003: 3).

This commonly held view has had a great influence on other scholars not dealing specifically with the southern Levant. Van De Mieroop, for example, has written that "in the Philistine area, for example, Assyria's influence changed the production of olive oil from a cottage industry to a centralized system that guaranteed supply to Assyria. Thus the empire cannot be considered as driven by mere desire to acquire territory. It was a structure that aimed at maximizing resources for its core" (2007: 252, emphasis added). He continues: "[S]ometimes the production of certain goods, such as olive oil in the Philistine areas, was reconstructed in order to increase supply" (2007: 259).

This view is not shared by all scholars, however. Elat (1978: 87, 88) claimed long ago--before the important discoveries at Ekron were made--that the Assyrians did not initiate the trade, and Stager (1996) attributed the prosperity of Philistia to the period of Egyptian hegemony over Philistia and Judah (see Gitin's 2003 reply). Na'aman has recently claimed that although the the pax Assyriaca and the results of Sennacherib's campaign were the reasons behind Ekron's prosperity, it was not the "result of a deliberate imperial policy of economic development of its vassals" (Na'aman 2003: 81, 87). Schloen (2001: 141-47) has written that the Assyrians were not interested in the economic development of the territories they occupied, but only in what they could confiscate or tax. Faust and Weiss (2005; 2011) have recently suggested that the prosperity of Philistia and Judah resulted from the flourishing Phoenician maritime trade, which "consumed" all the surpluses produced in these polities, and was not a result of Assyrian imperial policy (see also Faust 2011b).

The entire debate, however, has concentrated on the evidence from the southern part of the country, and in the words of Finkelstein and Ussishkin (2000: 602): "It seems that southern Palestine was the focus of Assyrian economic activity in the region, which included the foundation of central emporia and overland trade with Arabia, Transjordan and Egypt." They also state that "the north may have been pivotal in the Assyrian administration in Palestine, but it seems to have played only a secondary role in the thriving international trade of the 7th century B.C.E." The above-mentioned challenge to the consensus regarding the Assyrian policy was based on the one hand on data from the south, and on the other on the absence of similar evidence from the north. It is the reality in the northern parts of the country that we seek to examine here.


The kingdom of Israel was conquered during the Assyrian campaigns of the 730s and 720s B.C.E., and was subsequently divided among a number of Assyrian provinces (Aharoni 1979: 368-79). (1) But what can we say about the demographic, economic, and settlement consequences of the Assyrian conquests? In the following, we will scrutinize closely the available archaeological data, which is by and large much more detailed than that from any other part of the empire. Although the discussion will concentrate on the territories of the former kingdom of Israel, we will also refer to sites that probably belonged to adjacent polities, such as Geshur (Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee) and Phoenicia/Tyre (probably Kabri and additional sites on the northern coastal plain), if they were located within the geographical regions discussed here. (2) As we will see below, this does not significantly alter the results. (3)

The following is a review of the relevant excavated sites by geographical (not necessarily political) sub-regions (see Figure 1): (4)

The Galilee

According to Gal (1992: 108-9; 1993: 451), the Galilee was almost empty following the Assyrian destructions and deportations. Indeed, an examination of the few sites that have been excavated in the hilly parts of the Galilee exposes a gloomy picture:

Qarney Hittin: It appears that the "large Iron Age II city" was destroyed in Tiglathpileser III's campaign (Gal 1992: 44).

Horvat Rosh Zayit: After the destruction of the Phoenician fort in the early ninth century, a village, in which a relatively large number of installations for the production of olive oil have been uncovered, was established at the site (Gal and Frankel 1993; Gal and Alexandre 2000: 164-67, 178, 200). The village was abandoned in the late eighth century, probably during the campaign of Tiglath-pileser III (Gal and Alexandre 2000: 178, 201).

Kh. Malta: The Iron Age village, or more likely fortified farmstead, was established in the ninth century and existed until some point in the eighth (Covello-Paran 2008: 46). The site was then abandoned for a few centuries (ibid.: 75).

Tel Gath Hefer: The planned town that existed here in the Iron Age was destroyed in the second half of the eighth century, probably by Tiglath-pileser III, and the site was then abandoned for some 300 years (Alexandre, Covello-Paran, and Gal 2003: 168).

Although the sample is quite small, all the excavated sites in the Galilee ceased to exist following the Assyrian conquest, and the destruction and abandonment seem to have been significant. This appears to be true for both the urban and rural sectors. Recovery was slow, and even by the Persian period was only partial (Gal 1993: 451). Interestingly, two tiny seventh-century (i.e., "Assyrian-period") sites have been discovered in recent years in salvage excavations, one about 100 m. north of Tel 'En Zippori and the other near Horvat Yiftachel (Gal 2009). They represent the very limited settlement of this region at the time. Notably, all sites are new and had not been settled in the eighth century.

The Northern Valleys (5)

A relatively large number of sites have been excavated in this region, almost all of which experienced destruction and decline. Notably, at least one site was part of an Aramaean kingdom (Bethsaida, the capital of Geshur), and it is possible that a few others were under Aramaean control prior to their destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, and therefore outside the kingdom of Israel. Since, however, the fate of those sites is identical to that of those discussed here, and since they are located within the same geographical unit, I think it best to discuss them under the present regional heading.

Dan: It is quite clear that the city gate and the city walls were destroyed in the eighth century, probably in 732 (Biran 2008: 1688, 1689), but it appears that the city continued to prosper until the Babylonian conquest (ibid.: 1689).

Hazor: According to Yadin, the city was destroyed in the Assyrian campaign of 732 and was subsequently uninhabited "except for occasional temporary occupation--lonely forts overlooking the Hula valley and the important highways that passed it" (Yadin 1993: 603). This is supported by the later finds, and Ben-Tor notes that but few remains are to be dated to after the 732 destruction (Ben-Tor 2008: 1775).

Bethsaida: The Iron Age city (stratum V), which was probably the capital of Geshur, was systematically destroyed by the Assyrians (Arav 2009: 64-70, 114-15), although the destruction was not even and some parts of the city fared better than others (ibid.: 70). Arav (2009: 114-15) concludes: "[A]t Bethsaida, the conqueror carried away the upper echelon of society, took the means of livelihood, and utterly destroyed the economic infrastructure in such a way that there could be no revival. Bethsaida the capital of the kingdom of Geshur was no more" (see also Arav 2004: 15).

Kinrot: The stratum II city was destroyed by the Assyrians and subsequently a small settlement was constructed on the site (stratum I). This settlement existed for only a short period and was then destroyed. The excavator (Fritz 2008: 1685) adds that "following the final destruction of the small settlement of stratum I at around 700 B.C.E. by another Assyrian campaign, not mentioned in the Bible, the site remained unoccupied."

Tel Hadar: Stratum I, the final settlement on the mound, is dated to the eighth century (Yadin and Kochavi 2008: 1757).

En Gev: The original excavator, Benjamin Mazar (1993c: 411), believed that the last settlement was destroyed in 732. Later excavations also noted that that the final Iron Age stratum should be dated to the eighth century, and that the limited subsequent remains are to be dated to the Persian period (Kochavi and Tsukimoto 2008: 1725).

Beth Shean: Mazar (2008a: 1621) writes that the site was destroyed in 732, adding that "following the violent destruction of stratum P7 was a short period of activity (stratum P6) with a few floors and scanty walls left by squatters, perhaps dated to the last decades of the Eighth century B.C.E."

Tel Rehov: The excavator noted that the city that existed in the Iron IIB was smaller than its predecessor and was destroyed by the Assyrians (Mazar 2008b: 2018). He says that "the Assyrian conquest of 732 B.C.E. is dramatically documented by evidence of total destruction and slaughter. Two graves with Assyrian pottery, as well as scant occupational remains (stratum II), attest to a short period of activity after the Assyrian conquest, but the site was soon abandoned." There was no resettlement until the early Muslim period.

Tell el-Hammah: The situation during the Neo-Assyrian period is not clear. Some publications suggest that most of the finds date to the twelfth-eighth centuries (e.g., Tarler, Lipovitch, and Cahill 1988: 134), but in other places finds from the seventh century are also mentioned (e.g., Cahill, Lipton, and Tarler 1988: 191; Cahill and Tarler 1993: 561), and we will therefore treat this site as showing continuity into the period of Assyrian control.

Kedesh (in the Jezreel Valley): It is not clear from the published description when the Iron Age II settlement was destroyed, but it is quite certain that there was no occupation at the site during the Assyrian period (Stern 1993: 860).

Megiddo: Megiddo IVA, the last Israelite settlement, was apparently destroyed by the Assyrians, although according to Finkelstein the destruction was partial and settlement continued afterward (Finkelstein 2009: 118-20). Megiddo III appears to have been the only city the Assyrians built in the region (Stem 2001: 48). This Assyrian administrative center was destroyed during the late seventh century (Herzog 1997: 255-57; Stern 2001: 27-29), and it appears that the site was deserted during the Neo-Babylonian period (Herzog 1997: 255-57; Stern 2001: 312-14).

Jokneam: A fortified city existed at the site in the Iron Age, but the impressive fortification system went out of use in the Assyrian period and the remains from this time "represent a poor, unwalled settlement" (Ben-Tor 1993a: 807; see also table on p. 811).

Tel Qiri: This was an unfortified village in the Iron Age. It appears that some occupation continued into the Assyrian period (Ben-Tor 1993b: 1228), but the remains from this period are meager (Ben-Tor 1987: 103-5; 110, 116; see also Hunt 1987: 208, where the seventh century is missing altogether).

All in all, the northern valleys were devastated and the region suffered a major blow (see also Cohen-Tavor 2011: 18; Pakkala, Munger, and Zangenberg 2004: 25). Most sites ceased to exist, but at a few there is some evidence of squatting, usually not only very limited in scope but also in time. Some sites continued to exist, however, even if on a diminished scale (mainly Dan, but also Jokneam and Tel Qiri). Megiddo is the only city for which we have evidence of rebuilding by the Assyrians, and it served as a regional capital.

Some scholars have suggested that there were Assyrian centers or forts at Ayelet Hashachar, Kinrot, and Hazor (Kletter and Zwickel 2006 with refs.; but see Stern 2001: 312-13). The date of the structures is not always secure, and their "Assyrian" nature is doubtful. None of the structures exhibits any Assyrian artifacts or symbols of authority, nor have any cuneiform texts that might strengthen this suggestion been recovered. In any event, whatever their nature, their existence does not alter the gloomy settlement map in the northern valleys.

Samaria (region)

Many sites have been excavated in this region, allowing us to learn about the dark realities here during the Assyrian era.

Samaria: Avigad (1993: 1306) notes that "very few remains survived from the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian periods," adding that Sargon did not destroy the city, and that walls were still standing. Tappy (2001) also believes that the Assyrians used the city as their center. According to Gilboa (1996: 122), the Iron Age fortifications continued to be used into the Hellenistic period, but it is not clear if this is true for the intermediate period. It is clear, however, that the remains from the Assyrian center were very limited, regardless of the question of the site's destruction, and that it had a much more limited role at this time (Master 2013a).

Tell el-Far'ah (N): According to Chambon (1993: 440), stratum VIId was devastated by the Assyrians. Strata Vile and VIIe1 represent a resettlement following the destruction, but remains were limited to a small number of areas. The gate was blocked, although the palace continued in use. Generally speaking, a gradual decline is evident. Chambon (ibid.) suggests that there was perhaps an Assyrian garrison at the site, or even that some colonists were settled there.

Shechem: The city was destroyed by the Assyrians (Campbell 1993: 1353), and there was only "limited occupation at the site in the Assyrian period, covering the 7th century B.C.E." (ibid.). The Persian remains were also "scanty."

Bethel: Kelso (1993: 194) believes that the city prospered in the seventh century, until the time of Nabonidus or even the Persian period. Indeed, following the results of the excavations (Kelso 1968, 37, 51; 1993; Sinclair 1968), many scholars agree that the site probably flourished during the sixth century (Albright 1960: 142; Stern 2001: 321; Lipschits 2005: 242-43). Dever (1971: 468-69), in reviewing the report, notes that the sixth-century date was based on an out-of-context corpus, and that the occupation at the site ended in the early sixth century (Dever 1997: 301), and Finkelstein and Singer-Avitz (2009: 42) even claim that most of the pottery associated with the sixth century should be dated to the Iron Age IIB, and it appears that settlement at the site declined during the seventh century (Greener 2013).

Kh. Marjameh: According to Mazar (1993a: 966), "the ceramic evidence points to a destruction of the site in 722 B.C.E., with the fall of the Israelite kingdom."

Kh. Jemein: An Iron II village in western Samaria (Dar 1986), the site did not exist following the Assyrian conquest (Yezerski 2013: 94).

Kh. esh-Shajara: The finds at this Iron Age site in central Samaria do not continue beyond the eighth century (Yezerski 2013: 94).

Beit Aryeh: A village in western Samaria, in which dozens of installations for the production of olive oil have been identified (Eitam 1992a; 1992b; Riklin 1997). It seems to have been founded during the Iron Age II (most likely ninth or eighth century) and ceased to exist in the late eighth century (Riklin 1997: 19).

Kh. Dawwar: A small fortified settlement on the western slopes of Samaria, whose finds date to the eighth century, the site did not exist during the era of Assyrian rule (Har Even 2012).

Deir Daqla: Recent excavations at the site (Har Even 2011) have revealed fortifications, an industrial area with olive presses, and portions of a few structures. The settlement was destroyed toward the end of the eighth century, during the Assyrian campaigns.

Kh. Kla: The small-scale excavations carried out in this village indicate that it was destroyed in the late eighth century, probably in the course of the Assyrian campaign (Eitam 1987: 24-26).

Horvat 'Eli: A few structures, including one of the four-room type, have been unearthed here (Hizmi 1998). The site was established in the eighth century and existed until the sixth century. The finds include Assyrian-type bowls and wedged bowls, as well as other items of Mesopotamian origin or in Mesopotamian style.

All in all, it is quite clear that the region was devastated by the Assyrians and did not recover. During the seventh century the region was at a demographic nadir. In the north, one can observe some squatting and even limited continuing occupation (e.g., Tell el-Farah, N; Samaria), but in the south devastation was almost total (with the exception of the demographically insignificant Horvat Eli and probably also Bethel, where activity is most likely related to Judah; see also Tavger 2012). The situation at Shiloh is not clear, and it is possible that a small short-lived hamlet was established there in the seventh century (Finkelstein 1993: 389).


Only three Iron Age II sites were excavated in this region.

Tell Zira'a: Vieweger and Haser (2007: 165) observe that "the Neo-Assyrian conquest of the eighth century B.C.E. led to dramatic changes," and that "Tall Zira'a also lost its urban character in this period."

Tell Rumeith: A significant Iron Age settlement was unearthed on this mound. According to Lapp (1993: 1291-92), "[t]he mound's main stratigraphy represents an occupation of about two centuries, ending with Tiglath-Pileser Ill's destructive campaign in about 733 B.C.E." (see also p. 1293). Apparently this was followed by a gap until the Hellenistic period (1292). Finkelstein, Lipschits, and Sergi (2013) agree that the site was destroyed in the eighth century, and suggest two scenarios that might explain the devastation, by either Assyrians or Arameans. (Given the overall information from other sites in the region, the latter explanation seems less likely).

Irbid: Some publications suggest that this settlement existed until about 800 (Lenzen 1992: 456), but it is not clear when and how the settlement ended, and it is more likely that it also existed during much of the eighth century (Herr and Najjar 2008: 321).

While the number of published excavations in the Gile'ad is limited, Vieweger and Haser's (2007: 165) observation on the implications of the Assyrian conquest is quite revealing: "[Everything changed dramatically with the Neo-Assyrian occupation of the eighth century B.C.E.; the cities of northern Transjordan ceased to exist ... While the Kingdoms of Ammon and Moab further south flourished under Assyrian control, northern Gilead became a rural backwater." Herr and Najjar (2008: 323) also write that "this part of the country seems to have been largely bereft of settlement. The Assyrian destruction seems to have destroyed the local will to establish significant settlements in the area."

Northern Coastal Plain

The political affiliation of many of the sites in this area is unclear, and it is likely that most of them belonged to Tyre. Many were excavated and most experienced drastic changes with the transition to Assyrian rule.

Acco: Dothan (1993: 21-22) suggests that this city was devastated by the Assyrians but continued to exist after the destruction.

Kabri: During the Iron Age IIA a settlement and a fort existed at the site (Kempinski 2002: 452; Lehmann 2002: 85). According to Lehmann (ibid.: 85), "the end of Stratum E4 and the beginning of Stratum E3 might reflect political events following the campaigns of Tiglath-Pileser III." During the period of Assyrian rule, a large fortress was built at the summit (area E), but its nature, and whether it represents an "Assyrian presence" is uncertain (Lehmann 2002: 86).

Tel Keison: The Iron IIA-B is represented by impressive settlement continuity (levels 6-8). The subsequent levels (5-4) of the Neo-Assyrian period are much more poorly preserved (Humbert 1993: 866). Level 5 was apparently destroyed in about 700, and level 4 covers most of the seventh century (ibid.: 867). It appears as if the limited remains indicate decline, although the settlement that did exist exhibits many foreign influences and connections.

Tell Abu Hawam: Stratum III is estimated to have existed until 750-725, and this was followed by a gap in settlement (Balensi, Herrera, and Artzi 1993: 10; see also the table in Artzi 2008: 1554).

Shikmona: Town D was destroyed in the second half of the eighth century (Elgavish 1993: 1375) and only a few remains were found from the seventh century, "indicating that it probably does not represent a very densely settled phase."

All these sites were apparently impacted by the Assyrian conquest and most of them experienced decline. Still, the level of continuity, despite the decrease, is higher than that in other regions. This might have been the result of the fact that much of the region was subordinated to Tyre, and perhaps also because of the importance of the coastal plain in general for the Assyrians.

Central Coastal Plain (and Samarian Foothills)

A number of sites have been excavated in this area, allowing us to reconstruct its settlement history.

Dor: According to Stern (2008: 1699), most of the Iron II remains in the excavated areas were destroyed by seventh-century pits. Notably, the remains at Dor include fortifications (Gilboa 1996: 122; also Stem 1990), and it appears that the site was a relatively central one. The important role of Dor is also reflected in the Assyrian sources (Gilboa 1996: 131-32). (6)

Tel Zeror: The Iron II village was destroyed by the Assyrians, but some later Iron Age remains have been reported (Kochavi 1993).

Tel Hefer: Limited evidence for human activity in the eighth century has been unearthed (Paley and Porat 1993), probably reflecting some Israelite settlement before the Assyrian conquest.

Tel Michal: The site was abandoned during most of Iron II, but it appears that some human activity took place toward the end of the eighth century (Herzog 1993; Herzog, Rapp, and Negbi 1989). It is difficult to know whether this activity should be dated to the Assyrian era, and it is more likely that it predates it, especially since no seventh-century remains were reported, but in any event it was limited, short-lived, and is insignificant for our purposes.

Tel Qasile: After a settlement hiatus during most of Iron II, some human activity is attested for the seventh century (Mazar 1985; 1993b). It is possible, however, that this activity post-dates Assyrian rule in this region (Mazar 1985: 128).

Farmsteads in Samaria's Foothills: In the late eighth century a wave of settlement took place in an area that had not been settled previously (Finkelstein 1981; Faust 2006). Many farmsteads (and perhaps a few hamlets) were established in an ecologically inferior region in the Samarian foothills, nine of which have been excavated (Faust 2012: 57-60, and refs.)-7 It is likely that the reason for the establishment of these farms was the growing importance of the nearby international highway. The population in the farmsteads probably included some people originating in the coastal plain, but also--and probably mainly--deportees from Mesopotamia. The farms continued to exist, almost unchanged, for a few hundred years, from the late Iron Age until the middle of the second century, when the Hasmonean revolt probably brought this settlement phenomenon to an end.

Rosh Haayin: Remains of a village were excavated near the modem town of Rosh Haayin. This village existed throughout the Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic periods, until the second century (Avner-Levy and Torge 1999; Hagit Turge, personal communication).

Tel Hadid: Remains from the Assyrian period including a few structures and many olive presses (Brand 1998) were unearthed below the mound (Beit-Arieh 2008: 1758). It is likely that this occupation was associated with the above-mentioned phenomenon of the farmsteads on the western slopes of Samaria.

Horbat Avimor: Although located farther south than the Samarian foothill farmsteads, this site seems to have had a somewhat similar history. Excavation exposed late Iron Age and Persian-period pottery (Golani 2005).

Gezer: The gate and the palace existed until stratum IV and were destroyed when the entire level was devastated, probably by Tiglath-pileser III (Dever 1993: 505; Ortiz and Wolff 2012: 16). Stratum V (late eighth and seventh century) "was of little importance," but it supplies the context for the Neo-Assyrian tablets found by Macalister (Dever 1993: 505). Recent excavations have unearthed some limited remains dated to this period, showing its relative insignificance (Ortiz and Wolff 2012: 16), but it is possible that an Assyrian administrative building stood on the mound (Reich and Brandi 1985).

Tell Qudadi: Fantalkin and Tal (2009) have recently suggested that the fortress here was built by the Assyrians, Should this date be substantiated, it would appear that the site was built by the Assyrian empire, probably in relation to the activity in the Gezer-Rosh Haayin area (see below).

The central coastal plain experienced a significant decline in the Assyrian period and practically every excavated eighth-century site was impacted by the campaigns. Still, the decline was more limited than in other regions, especially the inland parts of the country, probably due to the significance of the region and the international highway. Moreover, although insignificant demographically, the southern part of the region (the Gezer-Rosh Haayin area) exhibits a relatively impressive process of settlement at the time.


All in all, and before going into a regional analysis, we may observe that the territories of the former kingdom of Israel experienced a drastic decline following the Assyrian conquest. Almost all sites show signs of destruction, damage, and decline, and most did not recover at all. Of the forty-two excavated eighth-century sites discussed above (twenty-nine cities/towns and thirteen villages or farmsteads), twenty-seven were devastated and either do not show any sign of Neo-Assyrian period occupation (twenty sites) (8) or reveal major destruction, with some short-lived squatting or similar activity (seven sites). (9) Twelve sites show drastic decline, but also some settlement activity, (10) and at three sites the Neo-Assyrian period might be regarded as similar to its predecessor, despite the destruction. (11)

In only seven to nine places is there evidence for new settlement at the time: Horvat 'Eli, the Samarian foothill farmsteads (counted here as one entity), the traces below Tel Hadid, Horbat Avimor, and Tel Qudadi (which were part of the same phenomenon), the two tiny sites in the Lower Galilee (Yiftachel and the site near Tel 'En Zippori), and perhaps the brief and insignificant episode at Tel Qasile and the settlement in Shiloh. These are all extremely small, and the only major site that was actually (re)built in this period is Megiddo, which was probably the headquarters of the Assyrian administration in the region, probably similar in size to its eighth-century predecessor. Clearly, the catastrophe was severe and the consequences grave.

The situation in the northern coastal plain, probably part of Phoenicia, was more favorable than in other regions, and four out of five excavated sites in this region also existed in the Neo-Assyrian period, although most declined in size. When this region is excluded from the discussion of the former kingdom of Israel, the decline in the latter is even more pronounced. Of the thirty-six excavated sites located within the boundaries of the latter polity, excluding Bethsaida, which was a Geshurite site, twenty-five were devastated and were at best settled only by squatters after the Assyrian conquests. Nine sites show some recovery after the destruction, although they were much smaller than their Iron Age predecessors, and only two, one a small village, were similar in size to their eighth-century precursors.

Settlement Patterns

While the damage is widespread, it appears that one can identify some regional patterns (Knoppers 2004; Dever 2007): The Galilee was devastated and did not recover, as was the Gilead. There is hardly any evidence for human activity in those regions, and while it is clear that some people lived there, the remaining refugees left very few remains.

In the northern valleys the damage was also very significant, but a few central sites persisted, even if modestly, into the Assyrian era. Thus, Dan declined, but remained a large settlement, and Megiddo was even rebuilt. It appears that a few other sites in the vicinity of Megiddo, including Jokneam and Tel Qiri, continued to exist, which may show the significance of that city, which might have been the only town to have a countryside of any sort. (12)

Samaria experienced a dramatic decrease in settlement. Southern Samaria was practically devastated and did not recover. The only site uncovered, Horvat 'Eli, probably reflects Assyrian activity, (13) whereas in northern Samaria there is limited continuity at a few sites, probably in connection with the capital Samaria itself. This activity might also relate to exiles from Mesopotamia (see below).

The coastal plain was devastated, but shows some clear signs of recovery, similar to the situation in the northern valleys. The recovery in the north is more significant and might be connected to Phoenicia. In the central coastal plain there was a drastic decline, but many sites continued to exist. In one micro-region (Samaria's foothills), there was even a limited increase, probably as a result of the arrival of exiles from Mesopotamia. The relatively more favorable fate of this region probably resulted from its importance for the Assyrian empire and its proximity to the international highway. Notably, it is on the southern edge of this region that direct evidence for Assyrian administration can be found, in the form of the tablets unearthed at Tel Hadid and Gezer (Na'aman and Zadok 2000). This is also the region where evidence for exiles from Mesopotamia has been found and where the evidence is based on excavations. (14)

Regional Centers

Settlements that might have functioned as centers of some sort are limited. The only real city that was built at this time was Megiddo, and it probably served as the major city in the Neo-Assyrian administration. It is likely that Samaria was also rebuilt, but this conclusion is based solely on historical reasoning, and we lack archaeological evidence for it, probably indicating that building activity was limited. Fortifications might have also existed at Dor (or the older fortifications were re-used), perhaps signifying its role as the third capital in the region, alongside Samaria and Megiddo. (15)

Dan probably survived as a regional center in the northern Hula valley, although it was damaged and not fortified, and it is possible that that the same is true of Acco on the northern coastal plain, which might also have had a few smaller satellites, like Tell Keison. It is likely that there was a comparable site in the Beth-Shean valley, but we have not yet been able to find any evidence for it, and Tell el-Hammah seems too small to have served in this capacity. Between these "central" settlements there was relatively little. The remains at most sites were limited and many of these existed for only a short time.

New and Limited Settlement in the Neo-Assyrian Period

New settlements, mainly very small and demographically insignificant, were established in a few regions, for example, on the western slopes of Samaria, perhaps also in the Lower Galilee, and, on the basis of surveys, maybe also in northern Samaria. Those settlements might be connected to the presence of exiles and will be discussed in more detail below. Interestingly, in general those settlements are situated in new locations and do not continue eighth-century settlements, which seems to fit the model I have previously suggested regarding settlement continuity in the rural sector (Faust 2003; 2012).


As is clear from the above evidence, the region experienced a major demographic decline (see also Stern 2001: 7, 9, 312-15; 2004: 275). Although many scholars propose a "population exchange" in the Neo-Assryian period, by which new people were exiled by the Assyrians to the territories of the former kingdom of Israel, replacing those who were carried off, this cannot adequately describe the demographic situation. Despite the great importance invested in the phenomenon of exile in modern scholarship, given its prominence in Assyrian texts as well as its importance in the Bible and biblical theology, its demographic significance was more limited. The population transferred to the region by the Assyrians must have been much smaller in size than that present prior to the Assyrian conquest. After all, this was not just a peaceful exchange of populations, and the demographic decline was not a result of exile alone. The major mechanisms of demographic decline--as reflected for example in the settlement reality described above--were death from wars, epidemics, and famine (during and in the wake of conflict), executions following sieges, and flight to other regions (Faust 2011a; 2012: 140-43).

Death: The death toll in wars in antiquity was high. With the absence of effective medicine, sterile conditions, and any real means of evacuation of the wounded, many injuries ended in death. (16) This was especially the case during and after sieges, and the death toll among the unsuccessful defenders was particularly great (Eph'al 1996: 37-39; Kern 1999).

Famine and Epidemics'. War, and especially siege, led to famine among the besieged population (Eph'al 1996: 57-64), and poor conditions in the besieged cities, where dead were left unburied, also resulted in epidemics, which accelerated the rate of death enormously (Eph'al 1996: 64-65).

Executions'. Following a war, the conquerors often executed many survivors, especially members of the defeated royalty, military commanders, and other leaders (Kern 1999: 69-71, 73, 75). This can be seen, for example, in the Lachish reliefs, which depict scenes of its conquest in 701 (Barnett 1958; Ussishkin 1982). While executions may seem unnecessary to the modern scholar, who would perhaps attribute them to the sadistic nature of a particular ruler, in reality brutality following the fall of a besieged city was a deliberate and calculated policy. In order to maintain stability, the Assyrians sought to persuade potential foes or rebels that opposition would be futile. This was done by demonstrating overwhelming might, as well as through propaganda. Demonstration of power, including severe punishment of offenders, was consciously directed not only toward those who suffered, "but also upon those who heard of it at a distance" (Saggs 1984: 248).

Death amid the Ruins: All the factors discussed above made famine and epidemics ever worse, leading to more and more death even after war and subsequent executions had ended. While corpses increased the danger of epidemics, looting by the conquering army of all available food increased famine (cf. Wiseman 1989: 51; Van Creveld 2004: 37; Erdkamp 1998: 13; see also Keegan 1993: 302; Bellamy 1990: 11). The collapse of the administration and the lack of organization in production made the famine yet worse (Jamieson-Drake 1991: 145-47; cf. Tainter 2000: 12; and Kern 1999: 73).

The overall death toll among the population was therefore great. A hint of this can be seen in the thousands of burials unearthed at Lachish and Ashdod. At both sites mass burials probably dated to the eighth century were unearthed (Eph'al 1996: 37-38; Dothan 1971: 21). At Ashdod (Eph'al 1996: 37; Hass 1971: 212-14), remains of 2434 individuals were found in locus 1151 alone, 22.1% of whom (538 individuals) were younger than 15 at the time of death. In another locus (1114) the remains of 376 people were recovered; here the majority of the dead were below the age of 15. In other loci (1115, 1113, 1006), additional skeletons were found (about 61 individuals), many of whom had been beheaded. These figures present us with the horrible outcomes of the siege(s) and the executions that followed. It is likely that the beheaded individuals were executed after the war ended.

At Lachish, remains of more than 1500 individuals were thrown into the caves (numbers 107, 108, 116, and 120), probably as result of a massacre following the conquest of the city by Sennacherib (Ussishkin 1982: 56-58), although other wars, such as the destruction of the Late Bronze Age city (Eph'al 1996: 38), cannot be ruled out. In either case it is likely that not all the dead were discovered, but the above figures are sufficient to present us with a glimpse of the horrible outcomes of war.

Furthermore, as a consequence of hostilities, security was shattered; the conquering army could do as it pleased, killing, robbing, and raping (Kern 1999: 81), resulting in a period of lawlessness. Gangs, composed of some of the survivors and outsiders, roamed the area (Tainter 1999: 1023). Thus insecurity led to more death, famine, and eventually additional migration, although one can debate the demographic significance of this (see Na'aman 2007). Therefore the number of people who were exiled--from the territories of the former kingdom of Israel and into them--was quite minimal to start with and had only limited demographic significance. Moreover, it is clear that not all those who were exiled from one end of the empire survived the long march to their new homes. This further suggests that the demographic contribution of those exiles to the former kingdom of Israel was quite limited and could not restore the former population peak of the preceding era. Finally, we should add that the exiles were not familiar with the local terrain, ecology, and economy, and therefore could not soon have brought about real prosperity.

The main aim of the Assyrian planners behind the exile was not to restore the demography and economy of conquered regions. They rather sought to insure that the resettled populations would not rebel ("creating a less homogenous population that was more docile . . Van De Mieroop 2007: 251), and might perhaps yield some limited revenue, but nothing more. (For Assyrian policy and its rationale, see Oded 1979; Kuhrt 1993: 532-34; D. Smith 1989: 29-31 ; Van De Mieroop 2007: 251.) Indeed, this is just what is reflected in the archaeological record: drastic decline, with a few central sites separated by great distances and with limited hinterlands. The few areas in which exiles were probably settled will be discussed briefly below.

The Economy

The gloomy situation in the area of the former kingdom of Israel under Neo-Assyrian rule is also reflected in the economy. The seventh century exhibits, as already noted, an unprecedented peak of economic activity in large parts of the region. Thus, for example, it appears as if the large port town of Ashkelon served as the major outlet of the entire region, connecting it with the flourishing Mediterranean trade (Stager 1996; Master 2003; see also Faust and Weiss 2011). The giant olive oil production center at Ekron is another example of this prosperity (Gitin 1989; 1995; 1997), and it appears that the settlements that flourished in fringe areas such as the Negev, the Judean Desert (Finkelstein 1995; Bar-Adon 1989; Lipschits and Biger 1991), and even Edom (Bienkowski 1992; Finkelstein 1995) are all manifestations of this prosperity.

The same can be said about the dense hinterland of Jerusalem, where hundreds of farmsteads flourished at this time (Feig 1999; Faust 2007; 2012; for the entire phenomenon, see Faust and Weiss 2005; 2011, with many refs.). Phoenicia, Philistia, and even Judah were part of this flourishing economy, which participated in the Mediterranean economic system, but the territories that had previously formed part of the kingdom of Israel and were now Assyrian provinces did not, being left out of this prosperity. The area still lay to a large extent in ruins, and did not have much to offer to the Mediterranean system (Faust 2011b; Faust and Weiss 2011).

The best evidence of the economic backwardness of the territories of the former kingdom of Israel can be seen from an examination of the role of olive oil in the Iron Age economy at Ekron (Gitin 1989; 1995; 1997). During the eighth century, the kingdom of Israel--the regions of Samaria and the Galilee--had boasted the largest centers for the production of olive oil in the region. Centers in which surpluses of olive oil were produced, although smaller than those of the seventh century, include Horvat Rosh Zayit, Shiqmona, Beit Aryeh, Kh. Kla, Deir Daqla, and many others (Faust 201 lb and refs.; see also Eitam 1980; 1992; Gal and Alexandre 2000; Gal and Frankel 1993). Not one of these centers survived the Assyrian campaigns, and no new ones emerged after the conquest. All the subsequent centers for the production of olive oil were located in Judah (late eighth century) and Philistia (seventh century), including Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell Beth-Shemesh (Judah), Ekron, and perhaps Tel Batash (Philistia) (Figure 2). (17)

Following the Assyrian conquests, therefore, all known centers of olive oil production were located south of the border of the Assyrian provinces, and the territories of the former kingdom of Israel did not participate in the seventh-century economic system.

Assyrian Policy in the West

What does this gloomy survey teach us about Assyrian policy in the west? Whatever the claims of Assyrian royal ideology, in practice Assyria devastated the areas it conquered. The empire did not invest in or initiate urbanization. As Grayson has phrased it, "Assyrian view of the economy of the empire was simplistic: the ruled territories were there to supply the central state with as much wealth and labour as could be squeezed out of them, and no thought was given to long-range schemes and profits" (1991: 216-17). The Assyrians never understood, or did not care, that they would benefit from investing in the economy of the provinces (Grayson 1991: 216; Schloen 2001: 146; see also Postgate 1979: 214). The manner in which governors were appointed and ruled meant that the "conquered territories suffered extensive exploitation" (Grayson 1995: 963) and were "economically depressed" (Grayson 1991: 216). This is true of the Assyrian provinces proper, and it is evident that the Assyrians did not invest outside these territories, for example, in Judah and Philistia, either.

Similar views of Assyrian domination have recently been presented by Stager (1996), Faust (2011b), and Faust and Weiss (2011). As Schloen has noted: "[T]here is no evidence that Assyrians understood or were concerned with the economic development of the territory they ruled, except in the most rudimentary sense of making it easy for themselves to tax or confiscate its wealth" (2001: 146). The areas that were annexed by the Assyrians--and later by the Babylonians--became or remained poor and desolate. (18) The Assyrians may have presided over a very limited recovery in certain regions, enabling their populations to subsist while contributing some income to the empire, but did no more than that. (19)


As mentioned above, some evidence for the presence of exiles has been unearthed in a number of regions:

Samaria's Foothill Farmsteads: The finds at the farmsteads, probably established following the destruction of Samaria (Finkelstein 1981), are different from those in nearby western Samaria, and it appears that the settlers here were not Israelites (Faust 2006). Since the coastal plain was also quite sparsely settled at this time, it is not plausible that all the population came from this region. The location of the farmsteads, not far from the international highway, which was of crucial importance for the Assyrians, as well as the tablets unearthed near Tel Hadid mentioning individuals with Mesopotamian names, indicate direct Assyrian involvement in this region. The tablets from Gezer, just to the south, also support this suggestion.

Lower Galilee: It is possible that the two small seventh-century sites that have recently been reported in the Lower Galilee (Gal 2009) reflect settled exiles, but this idea is based solely on the fact that the sites were erected in new locations and not on previously settled sites, as would be expected from survivors and as can be seen in many examples of squatting. However, more data is needed to support or refute this suggestion.

Northern Samaria: Zertal (1989) has suggested that the wedge-shaped decorated bowls unearthed at many sites in northern Samaria were produced by exiles from Mesopotamia. This suggestion is not free of problems and cannot yet be proven. Still, a thorough examination of all the wedge-shaped bowls from all sites in all regions (Itach 2013) seems to support Zertal's suggestion, and the proposition that exiles from Mesopotamia were settled here is plausible, though not more than that.

Kh. Eli: This is one of the only sites in ancient Israel where finds might indicate some connection to Mesopotamia (Hizmi 1998). Unless the site hosted an imperial official--an unlikely proposition, given its location--it is possible that some exiles from Mesopotamia settled there.

Even if all these sites were indeed settled by exiles, this was not significant demographically. Horvat Eli is a small site with just a few structures and Shiloh, even if part of the same phenomenon, is not much larger. The foothill farmsteads housed at most dozens or perhaps a few hundred people. The two hamlets in the Lower Galilee are also insignificant, and even if settled by exiles are only important for pointing out the existence of such a phenomenon. The reality in northern Samaria is more difficult to assess: While there are quite a few relevant sites, not a single one of them has been excavated. Hence we don't know the composition of their populations at this time and cannot assess their demographic contribution.


This is perhaps the area with the highest known density of both old and new sites in this period. The excavated settlements in the region from the time of the kingdom of Israel, Rosh Haayin and Gezer, continued to exist into the Assyrian era, although the latter exhibits a decline. Furthermore, although the Samarian foothills are ecologically inferior and were not settled during most historical periods, at this time they were suddenly filled with new sites. Thus, while perhaps not impressive in Iron Age terms, the relevant area was probably the most densely settled of the new provinces established in the territories of the former kingdom of Israel. Significantly, this is the region in which the largest concentration of tablets have been found and a connection with the Assyrian administration thus proven. It appears as if several factors combined to create this phenomenon:

1. The proximity to the international highway is clearly one of the main reasons for the relative prosperity. One should nonetheless remember that the highway had a long route and that there is less evidence for resettlement along its other portions at this time.

2. Proximity to flourishing Philistia might have resulted in the economic prosperity of the seventh century diffusing to this area too, through the demand created by Phoenician trade with Philistia. This is evident, for example, in the industrial installations unearthed near Tel Hadid, which should be viewed as part of the Ekron zone of activity (Faust and Weiss 2005; 2011).

3. The tribute paid by the Philistine cities and by Judah was transported northward and was probably not retained in the vassal kingdoms. The Gezer-Rosh Ha'ayin region appears to have been the best place to serve in this capacity, since it was in close proximity to the prosperous vassals. From here the extracted wealth was shipped to the north.


The discussion above shows that although the territories of the former kingdom of Israel experienced a severe decline under Assyrian rule (see also Herzog 1997: 278), there were differences among the various regions. Thus, a few regions (Galilee, Gilead, southern Samaria) were devastated and exhibit almost no remains from this period, while others continued to function for a short time before settlement disappeared almost completely (for example, the Beth-Shan valley, where some short-lived squatting is attested). In other areas, one can recognize some settlement and a limited degree of economic activity and recovery, even if only of a limited, regional significance (e.g., the northern coastal plain, the Jezreel valley, and perhaps also northern Samaria). (20) And in some micro-regions (the Gezer-Rosh Ha'ayin area) settlement even exceeds that of the Iron Age, but this should be understood against the background of local geopolitical circumstances and was both demographically and economically marginal (Faust 2006).

Still, despite regional variation it is clear that the kingdom of Israel and the adjacent regions had been devastated by the Assyrian campaign of the late eighth century. Destruction and decline can be identified at almost every one of the forty-two excavated eighth-century sites in the region. Twenty-seven of the sites show complete collapse--seven of these exhibit evidence of very limited and short-lived squatting thereafter and the remainder were simply abandoned. Twelve more sites reflect drastic decline, some with seventh-century settlement. At three sites the situation in the seventh century was similar to that of the previous century. In only a few instances were small new settlements built at new locations during the Neo-Assyrian era. There were regional centers in Megiddo, Samaria, Dor, Dan, and perhaps Acco, but relatively little between them. (21) The number of these centers was small, and only one, Megiddo, could be regarded as significant by eighth-century standards. Economically, Samaria (including northern Samaria) and other regions were quite backward during the seventh century.

The data presented here shows that the Assyrians did not really care about the fate of the areas they conquered. (22) They carried off whatever they could and their investment was minimal. The remaining population, including the newly settled exiles, produced some surplus for limited taxation. The local administration was interested solely in immediate extraction of wealth and not in encouraging long-term benefits. The olive oil industry that had prospered in the kingdom of Israel prior to the Assyrian conquest well exemplifies the consequences of this policy: After annexation the industry was left in ruins.

At this time an even more elaborate system evolved in Philistia, just beyond the borders of the Assyrian empire. The olive oil industry in Ekron is just the tip of the iceberg, for signs of prosperity can be recognized throughout Philistia, in Judah (including the Negev and Judean Deserts), and even in Edom (Faust and Weiss 2005; 2011, and refs.). This prosperity, however, was connected with the Mediterranean economy and not with Assyria. It should be stressed, moreover, that only regions outside direct Assyrian control exhibit real prosperity. Clearly, the economies of Phoenicia, Philistia, and Judah flourished during the seventh century not due to Assyrian policy, but rather in spite of it. While the Assyrians benefited greatly from this prosperity through taxation and tribute, they did not plan, generate, or invest in it. The prosperity was due to market forces and not to any state intervention. The Assyrians contributed first and foremost indirectly by destroying previous centers of enterprise, such as Samaria, and by not wrecking the new centers in the south. Perhaps their pacifying of the region and their subsequent demand for tribute, which forced local rulers to find additional sources of income (Bedford 2005: 72-73; Hopkins 1997: 29), might also be credited here.

While we should not underestimate the damage inflicted by the Assyrian campaigns in the territories of the former kingdom of Israel, (23) the regional variation described above reveals that the situation was complex and differentiated. The next stage of research should be 1) to observe the development of Assyrian policy over time, and 2) to compare the detailed picture of one region of the empire presented above to the reality in other provinces, and thus to derive a better understanding of the policies of the Assyrian empire in general.


Lily Singer-Avitz (2014) has recently restudied the pottery of Strata III-II (Neo-Assyrian period) at Megiddo and subdivided the Iron IIC pottery in the north into early and late. She then applied this typology to other sites that existed at the time in the north, concluding that most of them existed only in the later phase, probably in the second half of the seventh century b.c.e. If so, then the decline that followed the Assyrian conquests was even more significant than described above (and only a minority of the sites that were attributed to this era were in existence in the first two generations after the Assyrian conquests).


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(1.) The number of provinces and their exact boundaries are still debated.

(2.) There are a few sites in those border regions whose political affiliation on the eve of the Assyrian destruction is not clear.

(3.) The discussion will concentrate on the results of excavations, and surveys will be used only in a complementary fashion. It is becoming clear that surveys are not as reliable as we would like, and whenever there is sufficient data from excavations, the latter should be privileged. For examples of misdating of sites, see Kh. el-Burj 1973: 26; Ben-Tor 1987: 3; Bienkowski 1998: 164; Dessel 1999: 12-14; Cresson 1999: 97; Paz et al.: 2010: 39; Garfinkel and Ganor 2010; Wolff 1998: 449; Covello-Paran 2008; Gai 2009; Eisenberg 2012; as well as Faust and Safrai 2005; Faust and Katz 2012.

(4.) The dates mentioned in the text are those supplied by the excavators, and hence there are some minor inconsistencies. Naturally, sites like Tel Dothan (Master 2013b), Taanach (Glock 1993), and Turan (Shalem and Gal 2000), which were destroyed in the late ninth century and not resettled in the eighth, will not be discussed here. Data from other sites, e.g., Tel Rekhesh (Paz et al. 2010), is insufficient.

(5.) Tell es-Sa'idiyeh and Tell Deir Alla probably belonged to Ammon at this stage (Herr and Najjar 2008: 323) and will not be discussed here. The situation in Pella is not clear. Some earlier publications have suggested that there are seventh-century remains at the site (e.g., R. H. Smith 1992: 220), while others state that remains were scanty (Hennessy and Smith 1997: 258). More recent publications suggest that settlement persisted here until c. 800 (Bourke 2010: 3, 4; 2012: 2), while others mention seventh-century remains (Bourke 2012: 2). We will therefore not discuss Pella.

(6.) The political status of Dor is debated. Following Forrer (1920), most scholars have accepted that the site was the capital of an Assyrian Province (e.g., Stern 2000: 138-39), but others have rejected this view (e.g., Aharoni 1979: 377). Yet others leave this question open (e.g., Gilboa 1996: 131-33; Na'aman 2009).

(7.) Tirat Yehuda, Bareqet, Kh. er-Bira 1, Kh. el-Bira 2, Kh. Burnat 1, Kh. Burnat 2, Ofarim, and probably also Quia and the Shoham Bypass.

(8.) Ten cities and eleven villages or farmsteads (including one fort).

(9.) Six cities and one village.

(10.) Eleven towns or cities and one village.

(11.) One city and two small sites. (The data on Tel Hadid pertains not to a settlement, but rather to a limited phenomenon on the slope of the mound.)

(12.) Of course this applies only to the areas of which we have fairly good archaeological knowledge from excavations. It is possible that there were also more settlements near Samaria, but this region is underrepresented in excavations.

(13.) As noted, the situation in Shiloh is not clear, but it is possible that the new settlement (Finkelstein 1993: 389) should also be associated with Assyrian activity. The site is currently being re-excavated, and it is hoped that new data will clarify the situation there.

(14.) Although some of the sites discussed were not part of the kingdom of Israel, the fate of most was similar to those located within the discussed polity, with the probable exception of those on the northern coastal plain.

(15.) This issue is beyond the scope of this article. See also n. 6 above.

(16.) For the treatment of wounds in the Graeco-Roman world, see Salazar 2000.

(17.) Tel Hadid, although within the Assyrian area, appears to lie at the edge of the economic zone of Ekron (Faust and Weiss 2005) and the olive presses unearthed there probably resulted from developments in the south. See further below.

(18.) During much of the seventh century the Assyrians were heavily engaged elsewhere (von Soden 1985: 58-59; Kuhrt 1995: 499-501), and it is doubtful that they had much time or energy for economic investment in the Levant.

(19.) The local governors did not hold their positions permanently and did not pass them on to their sons. Hence it was in their personal interest to appropriate most surpluses. Acting solely for their own immediate benefit, they precluded any real opportunity for prosperity.

(20.) As far as the northern valleys and the coastal plain are concerned, this is mainly due to the importance of the international highway for the Assyrians and also to the flourishing maritime trade of the time (Frankenstein 1979; Bedford 2005: 72-73; Faust and Weiss 2005; 2011, and refs.).

(21.) This decline was not only quantitative, but also qualitative. Thus, Gilboa (1996: 123) has commented on the sad nature of urban remains from this time in northern Israel and has observed that in this period fortifications were built only at Megiddo. At Dor, the Iron Age fortifications continued in use and a gate was probably built; it is furthermore reasonable to assume that the Iron Age fortifications of Samaria were also still extant, but even this is not clear. Finally, the fort at Kabri might also be mentioned. At no other site is there clear evidence of fortification. This exemplifies the severe decline under Assyrian rule, even if a few more sites should prove to have been fortified.

(22.) For various sites that existed at the time and perhaps served as Assyrian administrative centers in the new provinces, see above; see also Faust 2012: 194-201, and refs. But to reiterate, those sites were insignificant demographically. Furthermore, even if their interpretation as Assyrian administrative centers is correct (and in many cases this is doubtful), they show only that the Assyrians built specific structures in order to rule the devastated provinces.

(23.) Conditions in Israel following the Assyrian campaigns are best understood as those characteristic of a post-collapse society (following Tainter 1999; see also Faust 2012). In particular, the nadir in most of the area was reached only in the sixth century, and many of the seventh-century settlements--those that recovered at least partially--simply ceased to exist during the transition to Babylonian rule (Stem 2001: 312-21; 2004: 275). These include Megiddo III (Herzog 1997: 255-57; Stem 2001: 312-14), Acco (Dothan 1993: 21), Dor (Stern 2000: 131-45), and probably Jokneam (Ben-Tor 1993a) and Kabri (Lehmann 2002: 87). The precise identity of the agent of destruction is irrelevant for the present discussion; of importance is only that the sites perished during the upheavals that accompanied the demise of the Assyrian empire and Babylonian rule. The sixth century represents the lowest point in the history of some of those regions, which did not have the opportunity to recover from one catastrophe before suffering another (for the south, see Faust 2012). Ultimate recovery took centuries.
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Author:Faust, Avraham
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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